College leaders and lawmakers are announcing a new program to help active military and veterans get their education.
The Florida College System Council of Presidents and Destin Republican Rep. Mel Ponder announced the creation of the Patriots Path program, which aims to help military personnel access the best educational options for them. Ponder says the program will provide a tremendous framework for active and retired military and strengthen Florida’s workforce.
Florida has the third largest veteran population in the nation, with more than 1.5 million veterans, 20,000 of whom are currently enrolled in the Florida College System.
“So you can see why this initiative is so vitally important to our state,” he said.
Ponder’s bill (CS/HB 171) would require the Board of Governors to adopt regulations and the State Board of Education to adopt rules to create a process that enables service members and veterans to earn uniform college credit across all Florida public college educational institutions for postsecondary training and education acquired in the military. It is on second reading in the House.
It would also require the Articulation Coordinating Committee, which is a K-20 advisory body, to convene a working group by July to develop a process for determining when military experience is eligible for college credit.
Jim Murdaugh, president of the Florida College System Council of Presidents and Tallahassee Community College, says the state college system is a major driver in helping veterans transition back into civilian life.
“Our institutions have always done a great job of being a seamless pathway into a college degree for our veteran community,” he said. “As a result, we’re the primary access point for higher education in our state.”
Murdaugh says people would be surprised to learn TCC has more veterans enrolled at the school than Florida State University does.
Under Ponder’s legislation, state universities, college system institutions, career centers operated by a school district, and charter career centers must waive the transcript fee for active duty members and honorably discharged veterans, their spouses and dependents. Additionally, institutions must annually report to the Board of Governors and the State Board of Education the number and value of fee waivers they granted.
The Senate companion (SB 372) is also on second reading in that chamber.