Tech partners with Army National Guard to offer tuition deferment program

Celebrating the announcement of an agreement with the Tennessee Army National Guard that will allow tuition deferment for Guard members attending Tennessee Tech under the STRONG Act are, from left, Tech Provost Lori Bruce, NCO SSG Joseph H Baydoun, Director of Financial Aid & Military Affairs Mary McCaskey Benedict, Lt. Col. John Rigdon, Tech President Phil Oldham, Battalion SMG Michael Owens, SFC Justin Birdwell, SSG Ryan Burchfield, and MSG Fred Mize.

COOKEVILLE – Tennessee Tech confirmed its commitment to students serving in the military as Tech President Phil Oldham announced a partnership agreement with the Tennessee Army National Guard that will make tuition payments more flexible for students utilizing Tennessee STRONG Act benefits.

With that agreement, Army National Guard members attending Tennessee Tech will be granted a deferment of university tuition and fee payments. The STRONG Act, which covers tuition and fees for Guard members earning their first degree, will then pay the university for those students’ tuition.

“Military service is part of the fabric of this university. Tennessee Tech and military service are proudly linked throughout our history,” Oldham said. “The STRONG Act is an opportunity to show our support for these service members. National Guard members make excellent students, faculty and staff. We are a better university because of them. This is an honor for us.”

A formal letter of intent was presented and signed by Adjunct General, Major General Jeffery Holmes, in a special meeting between Tennessee Army National Guard leadership and Tech administrators Monday.

“This is an incredible program and it is truly an honor to have such a prestigious university as this come forward to show support for our men and women of the Tennessee Army National Guard,” said Lt. Col. John Rigdon.

The letter will be displayed in Tech’s Eagle’s Wing Veterans Center.

“Our university has an entire department dedicated solely to serving our student veterans and service members,” Oldham said. “Military and Veterans Affairs Director Mary Benedict and the team in that department are committed to serving those who have served with excellence and they provide significant support through the educational benefits process.”

The STRONG Act, which stands for Support, Training and Renewing Opportunity for National Guardsmen, was signed by Former Gov. Bill Haslam in 2017 and funds up to 120 credit hours, or eight full semesters for Guard members earning a first-time undergraduate degree.

Tech is one of a few post-secondary institutions partnering to offer this type of incentive for students utilizing STRONG Act benefits.

“At Tech, we talk about the ‘long purple line’ and the success of students in our ROTC program,” Oldham said. “ROTC has been active on our campus for more than 65 years and we are proud of that program and those students. This agreement is another way that long purple line that connects this university with military personnel and veterans continues.”

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