U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., is pushing a bill that would offer free college to those who serve their country in some capacity, including military service and other options.
While Waltz, the first Green Beret to serve in Congress, insists he does not want a return to the draft, he is calling a one-year stint of service for any 18 year old fresh out of high school.
“Graduate high school, serve a year, get all of those life skills. Do it with people that don’t look like you–and then get some educational benefit,” Waltz said.
Noting that a person could serve in the military and obtain GI bill benefits, Waltz said there are many more outlets for those that would not want to serve in the Armed Forces. Waltz said he became determined to do something when watching the Democratic presidential debates earlier this year.
“We are seeing in the presidential race all of this talk of free, free, free,” Waltz said. “Free debt, free college. I, at least, want to get some service for it and I think the country and the taxpayers deserve some service for it. Meantime, you are instilling those life skills that we had in a previous generation.”
Waltz introduced the “National Service GI Bill Act” back in February. The proposal would allow qualifying service in areas like inner-city tutoring, Habitat for Humanity, working in the National Parks, the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) Volunteer Corps, working with seniors, the Peace Corps and an expanded JROTC.
Waltz said this type of volunteerism could help with race relations.
“The most important thing that I think is often overlooked with the Greatest Generation is everyone came together and you did it with people that didn’t look like you or didn’t share your background,” the congressman said.
He told Florida Daily about a good friend he made and shared his story.
“It really came home to me when a World War II veteran from the South that I became very close with came from the segregated South and said the first black man, the first African American he ever spoke to in his life was his bunkmate in the Navy, and they became life-long friends…. That’s how you truly come to learn and appreciate other people’s experiences, other people’s backgrounds, and overcome your own ingrained biases,” Waltz said.
Under Waltz’s proposal, a year of service would cover full costs for community college, a trade school, or in-state tuition at a four-year public college or university.
Waltz’s bill is not getting much traction in the Democratic-controlled House though 10 of his 15 cosponsors come from that side of the aisle. Florida Republican U.S. Reps. Brian Mast and Greg Steube are cosponsoring the bill which is currently before the U.S. House Education and Labor and the Ways and Means Committees.
Reach Mike Synan at firstname.lastname@example.org.