Juniors and seniors attending high school across the Treasure State who are thinking about joining the Montana National Guard could be going to college for free next year.
The Montana Board of Regents recently added Guard members to the list of students eligible for 100 percent tuition assistance.
The waiver applies to both in and out-of-state students who join the Montana National Guard and attend a state school in 2020.
The revision by state officials aims to address Guard recruitment and retention.
Staff Sergeant Sheldon Barr said this is good for Guardsmen who are struggling to pay for school while keeping their commitment to serve the community.
"The education benefits are a great way of giving back,” he said. “They put in the time, they do the training, they give up their weekends, they give up their summertime and being able to go to school and further their career for their personal life, is a wonderful thing."
Barr says the assistance is a game-changer for incoming Guardsmen as well.
“I talk to a lot of kids that don’t know how to pay for school,” he said. “They want to, but they don’t know how, and now more than ever the Army National Guard is one of those ways we can help you get there.”
The policy revision says round 150 Guardsmen currently attend a state school.
Officials expect that number to double once the new tuition waiver takes effect.
Here are more details about the policy:
The mandatory tuition waiver will serve as an effective tool to help recruit new Montana Soldiers and Airmen, retain those who currently serve, and enhance the Guards ability to remain a viable resource to the citizens of Montana. The Montana National Guard cannot compete with states who offer full tuition assistance programs, to include the bordering states of ID, WY, ND, WA, CO and UT. There are currently 40 states who provide full tuition waivers to National Guard members through a variety of processes with various benefits, some in addition to tuition covering the entire cost of attendance. Incorporating a tuition waiver for Montana will allow the Montana National Guard to compete more favorably with students who might otherwise chose to attend an out-of-state college. It would also allow the National Guard to offer a benefit that active duty recruiters cannot.