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TRENTON – Making the path to higher education easier for New Jersey service members and veterans, two bills sponsored by Assembly Democrats to assist with college course registration and to award credit for their learned skills were signed into law Jan. 13.

According to a release, the first law (formerly bill A-790) provides both former and current service members who live in New Jersey and attend a public institution of higher education with priority status for course registration.

Assembly Democrats R. Bruce Land (1st), Gabriela Mosquera, Raj Mukherji, Joann Downey, Andrew Zwicker and Vincent Mazzeo are the sponsors of the “Combat to College Act.”

“Any system that we can establish to help our veterans move forward with their education is a smart approach,” stated Land. “They have made, and continue to make, sacrifices for our country and state. It’s only right that we tweak systems like this one to be more accommodating.”

The priority registration benefit would apply to current military members serving on active duty and to veterans honorably discharged or released under honorable circumstances.

“We want to make it easier for our military service members and veterans, who have given so much to our country, to pursue their education,” stated Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “This measure will help them in terms of their coursework and their benefits.”

The second law (formerly bill A-791) sponsored by Assembly Democrats Land, Mosquera, Danielsen, Mukherji, Downey and Zwicker requires independent and public institutions of higher education to adopt policies that award academic credit to honorably discharged veterans for the lessons they learned through their military service.

 “Military members are able to gain a lot of valuable information and abilities through the training they receive as a new recruit and through the positions they hold throughout their service,” stated Mosquera (D-Camden and Gloucester). “It just makes sense to ensure that their hard-earned experience carries over to the academic environment.”

The law stipulates that educational institutions must consider the recommendation of the American Council on Education before determining what credits should be awarded for relevant military training and experience that align with appropriate courses in the veteran’s chosen degree program.

“This law helps our veterans get off to a strong start in pursuing the credits they need to earn their degree,” stated Danielsen (D-Middlesex, Somerset). “They have worked hard for our country and deserve a good support system to help them excel in their studies.”

“Veterans who risked their lives for this country deserve priority registration and recognition of their completed training through applicable college credits,” stated Mukherji (D-Hudson), a former Sergeant in the U.S. Marines who served in military intelligence. “Both of these commonsense laws will help more service members obtain their degrees.”

Credits awarded to admitted veterans for their applicable military experience could be used for either undergraduate or graduate programs.

 “The coursework completed during a soldier’s initial entry training is generally accepted at public and private educational institutions,” stated Downey (D-Monmouth). “This law standardizes the acceptance of that training to help student veterans more confidently plan towards a college degree.”

“More often than not, veterans have already completed military coursework and have life-skills that are equivalent to material they would study in a college or university setting,” stated Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset). “That experience should count towards their degree and these credits help acknowledge that.”

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