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H.R. 5589 (113th): Veteran Education Empowerment Act

The text of the bill below is as of Sep 18, 2014 (Introduced).


I

113th CONGRESS

2d Session

H. R. 5589

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

September 18, 2014

(for herself, Mr. Bilirakis, and Mr. Takano) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce

A BILL

To direct the Secretary of Education to establish a grant program to assist institutions of higher education in establishing, maintaining, and improving veteran student centers.

1.

Short title

This Act may be cited as the Veteran Education Empowerment Act .

2.

Findings

Congress finds the following:

(1)

Over 1,000,000 veterans attended institutions of higher education in 2012.

(2)

Veterans face unique hardships in transitioning from the battlefield to the classroom and eventually to the workforce.

(3)

The National Endowment for the Humanities’ Warrior-Scholar Project found that veterans transitioning to college likely have not used academic skills since high school and have difficulty adjusting to a fundamentally different social and cultural environment, [leading] to veterans dropping out of college before earning their degree.

(4)

The National Education Association found that veteran students can feel lonely and vulnerable on campus and that connecting student veterans can effectively ease this isolation by bringing together new veteran students with those who have already successfully navigated the first few semesters of college.

(5)

The unemployment rate for post—9/11 veterans far outpaces both the overall non-veteran unemployment rate and the unemployment rate for non-veterans entering the workforce for the first time.

(6)

According to Mission United—a United Way program that helps veterans re-acclimate to civilian life—it is often essential for veteran students to be mentored by another veteran who understands their mindset and experience.

(7)

Veteran student centers are recognized as an institutional best practice by the Student Veterans of America.

(8)

The American Council on Education, which represents more than 1,700 institutions of higher education across the country, has called having a dedicated space for veterans on campus a promising way for colleges and universities to better serve veterans on campus and a critical component of many colleges’ efforts to serve their veteran students.

(9)

Budget constraints often make it difficult or impossible for institutions of higher education to dedicate space to veteran offices, lounges, or student centers.

(10)

The 110th Congress authorized the funding of veteran student centers through the Centers of Excellence for Veteran Student Success under part T of title VIII of the Higher Education Act of 1965 ( 20 U.S.C. 1161t ).

(11)

According to the Department of Education, federally funded veteran student centers and staff have generated improved recruitment, retention, and graduation rates, have helped veteran students feel better connected across campus, and have directly contributed to student veterans’ successful academic outcomes.

3.

Grant program to establish, maintain, and improve veteran student centers

(a)

Establishment

From the amounts appropriated to carry out this Act, the Secretary of Education shall establish a program to award grants to institutions of higher education to assist in the establishment, maintenance, and improvement of veteran student centers.

(b)

Eligibility

(1)

Application

An institution of higher education seeking a grant under subsection (a) shall submit to the Secretary an application at such time, in such manner, and containing such information as the Secretary may require.

(2)

Criteria

The Secretary may award a grant under subsection (a) to an institution of higher education if the Secretary determines that the institution of higher education meets the following criteria:

(A)

The institution has a population of not less than 15,000 students, of which not less than one percent are veterans or members of the Armed Forces.

(B)

The institution is located in a region or community that has a significant population of veterans.

(C)

The institution carries out programs or activities that assist veterans in the local community.

(D)

The institution presents a sustainability plan to demonstrate that its veteran student center will be maintained and will continue to operate after the term of the grant has ended.

(c)

Use of funds

An institution of higher education that is awarded a grant under subsection (a) shall use such grant to establish, maintain, or improve a veteran student center.

(d)

Amounts awarded

(1)

Duration

Each grant awarded under subsection (a) shall be for a 4-year period.

(2)

Total amount of grant and schedule

Each grant awarded under subsection (a) may not exceed a total of $500,000. Subject to subsection (e), the Secretary shall disburse to the institution of higher education the amounts awarded under the grant in such amounts and at such times during the grant period as the Secretary determines appropriate.

(e)

Evaluation

The Secretary shall annually evaluate each institution of higher education that is awarded a grant under subsection (a) to determine whether the institution uses the grant in accordance with this section. If the Secretary determines that the institution of higher education is not using the grant in accordance with this section, the Secretary may delay future disbursements of amounts described in subsection (d)(2) until the Secretary determines that the institution of higher education has corrected any deficiencies and will use such amounts in accordance with this section.

(f)

Report

Not later than 3 years after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall submit to Congress a report on the grant program established under subsection (a), including—

(1)

the number of grants awarded;

(2)

the institutions of higher education that have received grants;

(3)

with respect to each such institution of higher education—

(A)

the amounts awarded; and

(B)

how such institution used such amounts; and

(4)

a determination by the Secretary with respect to whether the grant program should be extended or expanded.

(g)

Termination

The authority of the Secretary to carry out the grant program established under subsection (a) shall terminate on the date that is 4 years after the date on which the grant program is established.

(h)

Definitions

In this section:

(1)

Institution of higher education

The term institution of higher education has the meaning given the term in section 101 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1001).

(2)

Veteran student center

The term veteran student center means a dedicated space on a campus of an institution of higher education that provides students who are veterans or members of the Armed Forces with the following:

(A)

A lounge or meeting space for such students and veterans in the community.

(B)

A centralized office for veteran services that—

(i)

is staffed by trained employees and volunteers; and

(ii)

provides such students with assistance relating to—

(I)

transitioning from the military to student life;

(II)

transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce;

(III)

networking with other such students;

(IV)

understanding and obtaining benefits provided by the Federal Government or a State for which such students may be eligible; and

(V)

understanding how to succeed in the institution of higher education, including by understanding how to transfer educational credits.