Governor signs Sainato bill creating Military Family Education Program

Will allow reenlisting Pa. National Guard members to earn college benefits for family

HARRISBURG, July 1 – Pennsylvania National Guard Members can now earn college educational benefits for their spouses or children by committing to a second obligation of six years under a new law authored by state Reps. Chris Sainato, D-Lawrence, and Steve Barrar, R-Chester/Delaware. 

Sainato, who is Democratic Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, said the law establishing the Military Family Education Program signed by the governor today was the product of a genuine bipartisan effort.    

“This is a great day for our Guard, which is one of the strongest in the nation, and a great day for Pennsylvania, which is now a model for other states seeking to offer similar programs,” Sainato said. “Best of all, the new law is a triumph of bipartisanship. It shows what we can accomplish when we work together.

“We needed a way to boost Guard retention rates, and we also needed a way to meaningfully thank the many families throughout the state for the sacrifices they make each time they say goodbye to a loved one leaving for duty. Thanks to tremendous efforts on both sides of the aisle, this new law accomplishes both aims. 

“I want to express my sincere appreciation to Chairman Barrar for his dedicated collaboration and our colleagues for their unanimous support of this bill. I also want to acknowledge the efforts of Sens. Mike Regan and Lindsey Williams, who drafted a companion bill in the Senate; Sen. Pam Iovino, who helped get the bill across the finish line; and the support of Gov. Tom Wolf, who introduced this idea in his budget address earlier this year.

“Thanks to productive, nonpartisan collaboration, we’ve taken a solid step to ensure that our Guard and the amazing men and women who serve in it continue to thrive.”

Sainato noted that reenlisting Guard members can receive five years of higher education benefits for their spouses or children under the program, which will provide family members with 10 semesters of tuition-free education. 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 not pay anything. If it costs more, the student would pay those expenses exceeding PASSHE’s annual rate.