In-Depth: Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) introduced this bill to give veterans greater flexibility to use their educational benefits under the Forever GI Bill:
“It is incumbent upon us to provide our veterans with the tools they need to be successful in their transition to civilian life after serving in the Armed Forces. By removing arbitrary credit hour requirements for student veterans enrolled in STEM programs and giving them more flexibility to use their Forever GI Bill benefits, veterans will be able to better take advantage of the education benefits they are owed.”
Original cosponsor Rep. Mike Levin (D-CA) adds that this bill will help veterans obtain the degrees they need to launch careers in high-demand industries:
“It is critical that veterans have the support they need to pursue a STEM degree. I will continue to work with my colleagues across the aisle on measures to ensure that veterans can launch careers in high-demand industries.”
House Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Phil Roe (R-TN) adds that “by eliminating the credit hour requirement for a STEM degree program to qualify for this scholarship, we are ensuring that the scholarship functions as intended and that all student veterans interested in a STEM degree are able to qualify for the additional funding.”
This bill passed the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs by a voice vote with the support of three bipartisan cosponsors, including two Republicans and one Democrat.
Of Note: The Edith Nourse Rogers STEM Scholarship program is an undergraduate program that is part of the Forever GI Bill (also known as the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017). It’s administered by the VA and provides up to nine months of additional Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits (up to a maximum of $30,000) to qualifying Veterans and Fry Scholars seeking an undergraduate STEM degree or who have earned a STEM degree and are seeking a teaching certification.
Currently, veterans who want to use this scholarship must be enrolled in a STEM program exceeding the required 128 semester credit hours. The VA has found that there are only three states where the average STEM degree exceeds that number of credit hours. Thus, eliminating or lowering the credit hour requirement would allow more veterans to utilize this scholarship program.
The scholarship is available to students enrolled in a program studying, or who have earned a degree in:
- Agriculture science or natural resources science program;
- Biological or biomedical science;
- Computer and information science and support services;
- Engineering, engineering technologies, or an engineering-related field;
- Health care or a related program;
- Mathematics or statistics;
- Medical residency;
- Physical science; or
- Science technologies or technicians.
This program’s namesake, Edith Nourse Rogers, represented Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1925–1961 and was a tireless veterans advocate. She was one of the first women to serve in Congress and had the second-longest tenure of any female lawmaker. Rogers served on the Foreign Affairs Committee and Civil Service Committee, chaired the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and was the first woman to preside as the House of Representatives Speaker pro tempore.
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphot.com / asiseeit)