When it comes to supporting its members of the military, the University of New Hampshire puts its money where its mouth is. And it has for nearly 18 years.
Since 1997, the university has waived more than $6 million dollars in tuition for members of the N.H. National Guard.
In 1996, Robert Wollner was a full-time college student, a freshman representative in the New Hampshire House and a waiter at Applebee’s when the idea for a bill he sponsored —and got passed — occurred to him.
An Applebee’s coworker told Wollner he had been denied in-state tuition even though he was a member of the N.H. National Guard because his primary residence was Connecticut. That got Wollner thinking about what it costs guardsmen to attend college. And that led him to research the subject.
“I looked at what other states were doing and found many were waiving tuition for members of their National Guard,” Wollner says. The benefit was for residents and non-residents alike.
So, the then-Keene resident crafted a bill that proposed members of the N.H. National Guard receive a tuition waiver, and that out-of-state guardsmen be charged the same rate as New Hampshire residents. House Bill 1450 passed during Wollner’s first year in office.
Since then, hundreds of N.H. guardsmen have received tuition aid from UNH. In 2014, 201 guardsmen attended UNH with the help of waivers. Radar operator Adam Wong ’16 is one of them. An E4 Spc. with E TAB, 197th Field Artillery Regiment, Wong says it has made a difference.
“It definitely kept me from having to use private loans to pay for college,” Wong says. “It gave me a bit of breathing room, to look at the costs and finances and plan out how to manage my money.”
An information technology major, Wong says it would have been much harder to complete his education without the tuition assistance.
“The idea of having to deal with mountains of loans after four years would have most likely discouraged me from going to college,” the Portsmouth resident says. “Now, I’ve only got another year before I get my degree.”