House Passes Legislation to Expand STEM Scholarship Program for Veterans
Freshmen Get It Done Series

July 12, 2019 by Sean Trambley
A tray of stem cells at the University of Connecticut's (UConn) Stem Cell Institute at the UConn Health Center in 2010. An empoyee at UC San Diego mistakenly solicited fetal pancreas samples from the Center for Medical Progress. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/TNS)

In our new series, Freshmen Get it Done, The Well News will be highlighting legislative accomplishments by freshman Members of Congress from both parties.

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In June, legislation passed the House to expand veterans’ access to the Edith Nourse Rogers Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Scholarship program.

Introduced by freshman U.S. Representative Mike Levin, D-Calif., and cosponsored by Representative Andy Barr, R-Ky., the bill provides and expands scholarship opportunities that are difficult for veterans to find programs that qualify.

The Edith Nourse Rogers STEM scholarship program was enacted as part of the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, also known as the Forever GI Bill.

Current law prohibits many student veterans from using this scholarship as there are very few undergraduate programs that meet the current requirement that a program require more than 128 credit hours for completion.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, only three states – Colorado, Oklahoma, and Nebraska – have programs that currently qualify. The legislation would ensure that student veterans enrolled in a STEM degree program are able to fully utilize their educational benefits, regardless of the current 128 credit hour requirement.

H.R. 2196 would ensure that the scholarship program Congress provided for student veterans in STEM programs can be used in the way Congress intended and – more importantly – ensure that student veterans in these important degree programs receive the support they need to pursue their dreams. This program helps student veterans who often need to take additional credit hours to brush up on critical math or science skills necessary for success in a STEM program.

“Student veterans deserve every opportunity to pursue STEM careers that are the future of our economy, and I am glad to see my bipartisan legislation to expand those opportunities pass the House,” Representative Levin said in a release.

“Reducing the credit hour requirement for veterans enrolled in STEM programs is a common sense step to ensure that veterans can fully capitalize on their GI Bill benefits,” he continued. “As Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, I will continue to work with my colleagues across the aisle to improve education benefits for our nation’s heroes.”

“Supporting our veterans as they transition from service in the Armed Forces to civilian life is a bipartisan issue that we can all agree on, and I’m honored that my colleagues in the House supported this legislation which accomplishes this important work,” said Representative Barr in a release. “Providing our veterans with more flexibility to use their Forever GI Bill benefits will help them better take advantage of the education benefits they are owed. I am honored to have my first bill as a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee passed, and I want to especially thank Ranking Member Phil Roe, and Economic Opportunity Subcommittee Chairman Levin for their leadership and support.”

Following House passage of H.R. 2196, companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and has been referred to the Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Full text of the legislation can be found here.

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