Tester authors bill to make college more affordable for troops

Senator’s bill defers student loan payments and increases tuition relief

(Big Sandy, Mont.)-Senator Jon Tester has authored legislation to make college more affordable and accessible for service members.

Tester’s bill will defer student loan payments for service members during pre-deployment training and increase tuition relief for men and women in the National Guard and Reserves.

Tester and VA Secretary Bob McDonald last week met with student veterans on the University of Montana campus who shared stories about how their pursuit of higher education is playing a critical role in their transitions to civilian life and meaningful employment.

“We need to fight for those who served our nation and provide a leg up for military and veteran students as they begin the next chapter in their lives,” Tester, Montana’s only member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said. “This bill provides a boost for men and women in uniform who are furthering their education so they get good-paying jobs.”

The Service Member and Veteran’s Protection Act will protect service members from financial hardship by allowing them to defer their federal student loan repayments for up to 180 days during their pre-deployment training. Currently, service members can apply for deferment of their federal student loan repayments while they are deployed, but not prior to deployment.

This bill also increases GI Bill benefits for members of the Selected Reserve – currently $367 per month – at the same rate as increases in the national average cost of tuition. The Selected Reserve benefit rates have not kept pace with the rising costs of tuition, which has increased 3.5% for public four-year colleges and 2.5% for public two-year colleges each year over the past decade.

Additionally, the bill strengthens credit protections for deployed service members to better prevent identity theft and provide them with more peace of mind when they are serving in harm’s way. And it calls upon the VA to strengthen privacy protections for veterans and their families, including transitioning away from the use of Social Security numbers as identifiers.

Tester recently introduced the Veteran Education Empowerment Act to reauthorize Department of Education grants to help institutions of higher education establish, maintain and improve veteran student centers.

You can view a recap of Senator Tester’s tour with VA Secretary McDonald here.