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Assembly Passes DeAngelo, Coughlin, Riley & Wagner Bill to Create Commission to Study, Recommend Ways to Improve Transition of Veterans into Higher Education

(TRENTON) – The full Assembly approved on Monday legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Wayne DeAngelo, Craig Coughlin, Celeste Riley and Connie Wagner to create a commission tasked with studying and making recommendations to the governor and the Legislature on how to best facilitate the successful transition of veterans into higher education. The bill was approved 75-0.

“Transitioning into college life can be an overwhelming experience for new students, never mind veterans who are still adjusting to civilian life,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This commission would be essential in helping us better understand the challenges faced by returning soldiers and the type of policies that must be put in place to help facilitate their college pursuits.”

“Many veterans have a difficult time adjusting to life after the military. Those interested in pursuing a college degree might not even know where to start or where they can go for direction,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “The commission will help identify resources that can help veterans who want to attend school, as well as those who have already enrolled but may be having a hard time.”

“Many veterans are unable to find work because their military experience does not translate into the workforce,” Riley (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “The data gathered by this commission can help veterans who want to better their career prospects by going to college. It is our duty to do all we can to help our veterans provide for themselves and their families when they return home.”

“This commission would provide information that would help the state find ways to further support our Veterans transition back into civilian life,” said Wagner (D-Bergen, Passaic). “For their service and dedication in the military, the state should learn more about veterans’ need to achieve educational goals and create the life they want after the military.”

The “Veterans Higher Education Commission” – as created by the bill (A-3011) – would consist of the following 9 members: the Secretary of Higher Education, or a designee; the Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, or a designee; the Adjutant General of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, or a designee; the Commissioner of Education, or a designee; and 5 members to be appointed by the Governor including a representative of an institution of higher education’s Student Veterans Organization, a representative of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, a representative of the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities, a representative of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in New Jersey and a representative of a public research university.
The commission would be responsible for identifying and examining:
· policies and programs that will increase the percentage of veterans earning postsecondary certifications and degrees;
· services of institutions of higher education that successfully transition veterans enrolled in institutions of higher education back to civilian life, such as specialized counseling and career services;
· options for educating faculty and staff on how to best educate and support veterans enrolled in institutions of higher education who have recently returned from military service; and
· methods and strategies to increase veterans’ awareness of the education and career opportunities and programs available to them through the State’s public and independent institutions of higher education

The commission is required to issue a final report to the governor and the Legislature no later than one year after its organizational meeting, and will expire upon the issuance of the report.

An identical measure was approved by the Senate 33-0 in August. The measure will now go to the Governor’s desk for further consideration.