New bill calls for free online classes at state universities for vets, active military

Veterans, active-duty military, National Guard members, and people who haven’t been enrolled for 5 years could take one free class online each academic year

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Having served as an aviator in the United States Navy, including commanding officer of Guantanamo Bay before retiring in 2008, retired Captain Bob Buehn understands the transition from military life back to civilian life.

“It’s an adjustment. For me, after 30 years, it certainly was,” Buehn said. “In fact, some of our programming through the Military Veterans Resource Center is aimed at that transition.”

Buehn has been employed at the University of North Florida for the last six years. As director of UNF’s Military Veterans Resource Center, he and his staff help as many 1,400 military-affiliated students navigate student life each semester. If SB 1672 clears the Florida legislature, that number could rise.

SB 1672 is known by its sponsors as the “State University Free Seat Program”. If passed, veterans, active-duty military, and members of the National Guard could take one class online each academic year--free of charge. For those who’ve already served and sacrificed, Buehn says this could lead to new beginnings.

“If it’s a free way to get them back for one class, then it encourages them to pursue more education and a degree,” Buehn said. “Then we think that’s good.”

While the bulk of the bill focuses on the military, students who haven’t been enrolled in college for more than 5 years could qualify as well. Buehn says given their service and discipline, chances are, those who’ve served in the armed forces are already prepared for the challenge.

“They actually turn out to be leaders on campus, leaders in the classroom, and even in some cases mentor some of the more traditional college students that are in the classes with them,” Buehn said. “They’re all going to come out and be great citizens.”

Changing the world, one hero at a time. A senate subcommittee is expected to vote on the bill this afternoon. There is a House version. If this were to become law, it would take effect in July, in time for the Fall semester. To read the full text of the bill, click here.

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