Lois Frankel, Gus Bilirakis Push DOE Grants for Higher Ed Veteran Students
Two members of the Florida delegation teamed up this week to fight for a U.S. Department of Education grant program to ensure colleges and universities across the nation have student centers for veterans.
On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., the vice chairman of the House Veterans Committee; U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla.; and U.S. Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., brought out the “Veterans Education Empowerment Act” which would create the grant program.
Schools with at least 15,000 students, of which at least 1 percent of the students are veterans or active-duty military, would be eligible for the four-year grants which can range as high as $500,000.
“The men and women who risk their lives for our freedom deserve an opportunity to succeed when they re-enter civilian life,” Frankel said on Tuesday. “Veteran student centers will help provide student veterans with the support they need to transition to college, on their path to a new career,.”
“Enhancing educational opportunities for our veterans is an integral aspect of their reintegration into civilian life,” Bilirakis said. “Grants allowing for the establishment and maintenance of veteran student centers would only aid in that effort. Veterans returning home have earned educational benefits, and Congress should do everything it can to ensure veterans can receive the resources to pursue the education and skills necessary to successfully start a new chapter after their service has ended. I am proud to support a bill that would do just that.”
Supporters of the bill noted that veterans often encounter roadblocks as they return to school after their service, are usually older than their fellow students, have disabilities and are supporting families. The veteran service centers would help veterans with their benefits, provide academic support and assist with job placement.
Frankel introduced a similar bill last September which won the support of a number of veterans groups, including the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Despite having the support of more than 30 co-sponsors -- including Bilirakis, Florida Republican U.S. Reps. David Jolly, Rich Nugent and Tom Rooney, and Florida Democratic U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings, Patrick Murphy and Frederica Wilson -- the bill gained little traction.