Sen. James Sanders, at podium, and other lawmakers want to replace a tuition credit for veterans lost in the federal sequester. Photo by Jess String.
March 18, 2013Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor, R-Fishkill, a Marine Corps veteran, has introduced the Commitment to Military Education Act which proposes tuition reductions for eligible servicemen and women attending SUNY and CUNY schools affected by the federal sequester cuts.
The federal sequester enacted on March 1 removed funding for federal tuition assistance programs for veterans nationwide. Tuition assistance programs were either cancelled or suspended in the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard because of the federal sequester earlier this month.
The suspension of federal tuition assistance programs mean that service members enrolled in college classes will not have the funding to complete their programs. The Commitment to Military Education Act proposal would require SUNY and CUNY schools to reduce tuition by the amount of funding lost due to the sequester.
"We have bipartisan support for this bill, in the Assembly there are 40 cosponsors of which I think 10 are Democrats and we're expecting that to grow," said Lalor. " The sponsor in the Senate is Sen. [Greg] Ball… he has bipartisan support from a number of senators including Sen. Carlucci, Sen. Sanders from Queens and we think that this is something that could have New York lead the way in something important. We have an obligation to our troops to fulfill the promise we made to them as a country when they signed the dotted line and joined the military and, at least in New York state, we're going to fulfill that obligation.
The program would apply to active and active reserve servicemen and women.
According to Lalor, there are 35,000 active and active reserve military personnel in New York and a national trend shows that 20 to 25 percent use tuition assistance programs, meaning that 9,000 service members in the state are using tuition assistance.
Lalor, spoke alongside other lawmakers in the service including Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush, R-West Carthage, a Vietnam War veteran and Sen. James Sanders, Jr., D-Queens, a Marine Corps veteran.