FILE - Wisconsin National Guard

Wisconsin National Guard Challenge Academy of Fort McCoy  marched in Warrens Cranberry Festival Parade Sept. 29, 2019.

If a Wisconsin National Guard soldier or airman is sent overseas for a year, they can drop out of their college classes without losing their money. But there's no such flexibility for troops who are deployed for just a few weeks. 

The Wisconsin Assembly on Wednesday unanimously approved a plan that would allow all of the state's guardsmen to drop classes cost-free, or get a guaranteed spot in the next class without having to pay anything extra. 

“When our service men and women are called into active duty, current law protects their employment status but the same cannot be said for their academic status,” state Rep. Cindi Duchow, R-Delafield, said. "Current law also falls short in protecting tuition and room and board fees at all types of higher education institutions, trade schools and post-secondary schools in our state and only affords protections to those whose orders are at least 30 days.”

Duchow's plan would require all colleges and universities in Wisconsin, along with trade schools and institutions of higher education to give service members the option of reimbursement of tuition and pro-rated room and board fees or re-enrollment for no additional cost in the next available offering of that class. 

“Pursuing an education while serving in the military is challenging in and of itself, so these individuals should not have to worry about their academic standing or financial future if they’re called into active duty. It is important these brave men and women are treated fairly and are afforded the flexibility and services they need," Duchow said. 

Duchow estimates about a quarter of Wisconsin's 10,000 National Guard members are students in one form or another. She said there are strong protections for guard members' jobs. She wants protections for guard members on campus to be just as strong. 

The plan now heads to Gov. Tony Evers' desk. 

The Center Square Contributor

An industry veteran with two decades of experience in media, Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square.