Mississippi lawmakers offer bill to guarantee readmission for Guard, Reserve students

Published 1:03 pm Wednesday, June 21, 2023

A new bill submitted in Congress, if passed, will guarantee readmission to schools for any National Guard or Reserve students following a deployment.

The Servicemember Enrollment and Readmission for Valuable Education (SERVE) Act was introduced Wednesday by Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), of Brookhaven, and Rep. Mike Ezell (R-Miss.). Lead Democratic sponsors are Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.).

The bicameral, bipartisan act would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to ensure that students called to serve in domestic, short-term National Guard and Reserve mobilizations are able to return to their studies.

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“The men and women of the Guard and Reserve shouldn’t have their educational pursuits sidelined because they answer the call to serve, often to aid their fellow Americans in times of crisis,” Hyde-Smith said. “A simple change to the Higher Ed Act will guarantee that these dedicated service members can serve and study without disruptions.”

“Our student service members in the National Guard and Reserve make the admirable decision to serve their nation and pursue an education at the same time. The SERVE Act provides these heroes with peace of mind by ensuring that short-term emergency mobilizations will not negatively impact their academic future,” Ezell said.

“Students in the Reserves and the National Guard selflessly serve their communities and our country, and they shouldn’t have to jeopardize their spot in school because they were called to serve,” said Hassan. “I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to give student National Guard and Reserve members who are mobilized for shorter missions the security of knowing that their spot in school will be waiting for them afterwards.”

“The SERVE Act is commonsense legislation to allow National Guard and Reserve members the ability to successfully pursue their educational and professional goals,” said Cartwright. “No student service member should have to sacrifice their future because of a short-term emergency mobilization.”

Under current law (20 U.S.C § 1091c), the readmission requirements for service members only guarantee readmittance to an educational institution if the student is deployed for more than 30 days. Under this standard, National Guard and Reserve members mobilized for fewer than 30 days are not universally entitled to be promptly readmitted.

The SERVE Act would remove the “more than 30 days” stipulation and simply qualify National Guard and Reserve members “on active duty, active duty training, or National Guard duty under State order or Federal authority.” This change would guarantee a student will be readmitted promptly at the same academic status.

In 2020 alone, members of the National Guard and Reserve were mobilized to assist law enforcement in 38 states, to support severe weather events in 22 states, and to aid in wildfire suppression in another 19 states. Many of those deployments lasted less than 30 days.