ESU Named Pennsylvania National Guard Associations Guard-Friendly School
East Stroudsburg University was one of 30 colleges and universities that have earned the inaugural PNGAS Guard-Friendly School designation at the 2019 Pennsylvania National Guard Associations (PNGAS) Awards Celebration at the Lancaster Convention Center on Friday, November 8. During the ceremony, ESU was also named Best of the Best Schools finalist along with 10 other institutions, and ESU alumni Rosie Carillo’19, received Best of the Best Guard Member finalist.
Developed by the PNGAS Education Advisory Council, the PNGAS Guard-Friendly School standards were designed to recognize colleges, universities and trade schools which meet or exceed 10 baseline criteria that create a supportive learning environment to assist members of the Pennsylvania Guard pursuing post-secondary degrees.
“Guardsmen have unique responsibilities that active duty troops and reservists do not have, and this creates different challenges for them when pursuing a degree,” stated Brigadier General (Retired) George Schwartz, Chairman of the PNGAS Education Action Council. “These 30 schools have made a deliberate effort to be flexible, accommodating and supportive of Guardsmen-Students and deserving of recognition. The PNGAS Guard Friendly School designation is a win-win!”
For many years, the Education Assistance Program (“EAP”) has been the number one recruiting tool for the Pennsylvania National Guard. Since its inception, Pennsylvania has distributed more than $281 Million through the EAP so Guard members can get college, university and trade school degrees. The EAP provides a tuition benefit equivalent to the yearly tuition rate set by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) so that members of the Pennsylvania National Guard can attend one of 488 Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) approved schools. Presently, the EAP is an almost $32,000 tuition benefit for each Guardsman.
With the July 2019 enactment of the Military Family Education Program (MFEP), there is a now a non-lapsing fund providing EAP-like tuition benefits to spouses and children of members of the Pennsylvania National Guard when a Guardsman re-enlists for another 6-year term. Next year, the MFEP will be an almost $32,000 tuition benefit for spouses and/or children of a Guard member that reenlists for 6-years.
In less than 3 years the EAP and MFEP could exceed $30 million a year in tuition benefits. As state and national emergencies and global warfare become increasingly sophisticated, technology-driven and complex, having a well-trained and educated Guard force is more strategic and valuable than ever.
“We are very confident the designation, PNGAS Guard-Friendly School, will keep producing immediate and long-term benefits and synergies for students, faculty, alumni, PNGAS members, veterans, their families, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and its economy,” Kathleen Fabrizi, Executive Director, PNGAS and Pennsylvania National Guard Foundation.
In 2016, to help optimize taxpayer dollars and increase the positive impacts of the EAP program for Guard recruitment and retention, PNGAS started collecting and sharing best practices among K-12, colleges, universities, trade, certification and training schools. PNGAS discovered many examples of inflexible, intolerant and unfair practices against members of the Guard. PNGAS also found that few schools knew how many Guard members even attended their school or how much EAP funding they received on an annual basis. But, by promoting and championing best practices, dozens of schools began improving many aspects of their relationships with members of the Guard and Veterans.
To further their efforts, PNGAS formed the PNGAS Education Action Council (EAC) in 2018, chaired by Brigadier General (Retired) George Schwartz to jumpstart these initiatives. Very quickly the EAC had discussions to define and create an application for the designation of a PNGAS Guard Friendly School. For months, dozens of colleges, universities and trade schools gave edits, insights, commentary and suggestions of the definition and application process for a PNGAS Guard Friendly School designation. Released in April 2019, the PNGAS Guard Friendly School application, designation and logo were designed to showcase and promote the schools that meet and exceed the ten standards adopted by PNGAS.
The PNGAS board approved the 30 self-nominated institutions to be named as 2019-2020 PNGAS Guard-Friendly Schools for the 2019-2020 academic year. Of the more than 480 schools eligible to receive EAP funds, only these schools have earned the right to be designated a PNGAS Guard-Friendly School. In 2020 PNGAS and the EAC are reviewing several additional standards to help more members, veterans and their families get advanced degrees.
PNGAS is a non-profit organization, not associated with or legally connected to the Pennsylvania National Guard, the state or federal government, the US Military or the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.