STEUBENVILLE - Eastern Gateway Community College President Laura Meeks said legislation passed this week by the state Senate will help military veterans obtain a college degree after they return to civilian life.
State Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, announced major portions of his Veterans Opportunity legislation passed this week by the Ohio Senate as part of a budget bill.
"I am pleased that much of my original Veterans Opportunity Bill is on its way to becoming law. The amendments that were accepted demonstrate a true bipartisan effort in showing that Ohio is dedicated and committed to the men and women who serve," said Gentile
He noted the Veterans Opportunity Bill will expand the educational and professional opportunities of veteran students by calling for a standardized system in awarding academic credit to veterans who have taken coursework or have received specialized training in the armed forces, while also expanding student services for student veterans.
"Eastern Gateway Community College embraces this bill, as the college has always supported efforts to help our veterans receive the education and training they deserve after giving so much to their country. Lou Gentile has long been a champion of this legislation, even sending a draft of the bill to this college and to other college presidents for review and input. This legislation enhances our goal of serving veterans and provides a clearer path to connect veterans with higher education options," said Meeks on Friday.
The amendments included in the state budget bill will support and enhance the experience of veteran students when they return to the classroom.
Gentile said he included language in the budget bill that will periodically survey student service members and veterans to better identify their needs and challenges and make the a report available to each two- and four-year public university in the state.
"My proposed legislation had supportive testimony from higher education officials, professionals in the student services field and members of the military community," Gentile said.
He had organized a higher education roundtable with local university leaders, including officials from Eastern Gateway Community College, Ohio University Eastern, Belmont College, and Washington State Community College in Marietta.
He also worked with statewide stakeholders, including the Department of Veterans Services, the Ohio Board of Regents and the Inter-University Council to craft the bill with the input, suggestions and expertise of those familiar with issues affecting student veterans.
"We know that veteran students bring significant skills and unique experiences to our classrooms and into our work force. By strengthening the services and resources to veterans at our public colleges and universities, this legislation will make Ohio a leader among the 50 states when it comes to ensuring our universities are military and veteran friendly," said Gentile.
"I was also successful in implementing an amendment designed to connect student veterans with jobs after graduation. The new law will utilize and build upon existing career services offices to create and encourage meaningful relationships between current student veterans and alumni while linking student veterans with prospective employers in their particular field of study," explained Gentile in a press release.
The legislation has been sent to the Gov. John Kasich for his signature.