O’Mara lauds signing of PA GI Bill

HARRISBURG, July 1 – Members of the Pennsylvania National Guard can now send their spouses and children to college at no cost or at a substantially reduced cost if the guardsman reenlists for an additional six-year term, according to state Rep. Jennifer O’Mara, D-Delaware, who supported the new initiative.

Gov. Tom Wolf today signed into law House Bill 1324, known as the PA GI Bill or Military Family Education Program.  

It is the first program of its kind in the nation. 

“Members of the Pennsylvania National Guard and their families make daily sacrifices to ensure the very rights we hold most dear,” O’Mara said. “These sacrifices include but are not limited to days and nights spent away from loved ones.

“The PA GI Bill enables these same families the opportunity to continue their education without piling a financial burden onto their households.”

The freshman state representative serves on the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee and co-sponsored the bill. She has also served as an advocate with the Department of Veterans Affairs for her husband, a combat veteran and two-time Purple Heart recipient.

PNG members are eligible for the Education Assistance Program as part of their initial service obligation of six years. It provides a non-transferable education benefit. The GI Bill provides members who reenlist the opportunity to receive five years of higher education benefits for their spouses and children. The benefit must be used at an institution of higher learning approved by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency. The benefit will cover the cost to attend a State System (PASSHE) university, which includes Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester universities.

If the family member attends an institution that costs less than the annual PASSHE tuition rate, the student would pay nothing. If it costs more, the student would cover the expenses exceeding the PASSHE’s annual rate.

In addition to supporting military family members, O’Mara said the program would improve PNG retention and readiness. The PNG is the third largest National Guard in the nation with nearly 20,000 guardsman who reside in every county.