Mel Ponder and college presidents announce new veterans education program
The Florida College System Council of Presidents and Rep. Mel Ponder announce the creation of the Patriot’s Path program.

Mel Ponder Patriot's Path
Florida has 1.5 million veterans, the third largest veteran population in the U.S.

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.

Sarah Mueller

Sarah Mueller has extensive experience covering public policy. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010. She began her career covering local government in Texas, Georgia and Colorado. She returned to school in 2016 to earn a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting. Since then, she’s worked in public radio covering state politics in Illinois, Florida and Delaware. If you'd like to contact her, send an email to [email protected].

One comment

  • Richard Collura

    February 20, 2020 at 3:37 pm

    I am a 3rd Generation Enlisted Navy Veteran with both sides of my family serving honorably in every overseas war of the 20th Century.I got NOTHING from the VA for education. I enlisted in 1984 which was during VEAP. Because they say I didn’t contribute to the VEAP fund from my $900 per month paycheck as an E-3, that I can’t get New GI Bill that became law in 1985 while I was still serving overseas or any post 911 education program since I honorably discharged in 1992. I immediately enrolled in Broward (Community) College in July 1992 which was a matter of days from coming home. I qualified for a meager Desert Storm Scholarship from Broward College. I still had to pay out of pocked for the remainder (yes, I was stupid for not applying for Pell Grant, buy nobody told me I could and had figure out on my own since there was little help for vets then). After my AA Degree from BC, I got frustrated and waited another 10 year to go back and finish a BA in Political Science w/minor in Business from FAU on a Pell Grant and Subsidized Stafford Student Loans that I am still paying back to USDOE at 7% interest. I just got $800 from the Workforce One WIOA program which took me years to get approved for to finish the only 2 courses I need to obtain an Accounting Technology Operations Certificate from Broward College that is a new program in last 2 years. The problem is when you go the colleges they don’t care how you pay they just want you to get the money from somewhere ELSE! I never got any help from any Financial Aid counselor at any college. NOR did I ever get a job from an FAU or BC Job Fair or assistance finding work from anybody. Every job I have been hired for I applied and earned on my own hard work. The Florida College System is BROKEN and I don’t know if this fixes it.

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