HARRISBURG – Children and spouses of service members in the Pennsylvania National Guard would be entitled to scholarships to attend Pennsylvania’s 14-colleges in the State System of Higher Education under a proposal championed by Gov. Tom Wolf and now moving forward in both chambers of the General Assembly.

Lawmakers said they expect the measure will easily pass both chambers of the Legislature.

“This is one more way to honor those who serve our commonwealth and our country,” Wolf said. “In this case, by honoring our military families, the unsung heroes who hold down the fort, take on many extra roles and offer endless support for their service member whether at home or deployed.”

Wolf’s budget estimated that the cost of the program would be $2.7 million a year.

The measure is considered the first of its kind in the country, said Maj. Gen. Anthony Carrelli, adjutant general of the Pennsylvania National Guard.

Carrelli said that in the last year, members of the National Guard were summoned to rescue people in Pennsylvania floods and in severe snowstorms.

“We plucked 18 people off rooftops” in flooding, he said.

In addition, 500 members of the 3rd Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, based in Danville, are preparing for a yearlong deployment to Poland, he said.

There are about 20,000 people serving in the Pennsylvania National Guard.

Carrelli said that after Wolf announced the proposal that he began fielding calls from his counterparts in other states interested in modeling the incentive around the country.

The subject’s also been one of great interest when he’s visited family gatherings of National Guard service members, Carrelli said.

“There’s a buzz around Pennsylvania in the Guard community about this,” he said.

Lawmakers said the measure would reward family members who make their own sacrifices in having to make do at home while members of the National Guard serve around the state and around the globe.

Identical measures to create the new scholarship incentive were approved Tuesday in the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committees in both the Senate and House.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said state Sen. Mike Regan, R-Cumberland. “This is about recognizing the families that sacrifice day in and day out.”

State Rep. Chris Sainato, D-Lawrence, said the measure is a “win-win” in that it creates an incentive for the National Guard families and it also creates an incentive to attract those students to enroll in the State System of Higher Education. 

Many of the 14 colleges in that system have been struggling with enrollment in recent years.

John Finnerty is based in Harrisburg and covers state government and politics. Follow him on Twitter @CNHIPA.

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