RAPID CITY, S.D. – Gov. Kristi Noem signed a bill into law Thursday that will provide 100% tuition benefits for National Guard members at South Dakota technical colleges and public universities.
The increase from 50% to 100% coverage will benefit the Guard by providing another incentive for recruitment and retention, Noem said.
Noem, whose father served in the National Guard, spoke in front of several Guard members at the Range Road Armory in Rapid City during the signing and shortly before a deployment ceremony for the 216th Fire Fighting Team, which will spend a year in the U.S. European Command area of operations. Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden, who was a guardsman himself, also spoke at the signing.
Noem told attendees the increased benefit is a statement from South Dakota taxpayers that they support the work of the National Guard, citing the emergency efforts during flooding, wildfires or during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They recognize every single day, when there is a tornado or derecho, that it’s National Guard members who come to their communities and that when they need help, you provide it,” Noem said.
She added that discussions to cover tuition costs have been in play since she was elected to the state Legislature in 2006, and she doesn’t expect to ever have to “defend spending these dollars on you.”
Noem’s office put the annual cost of the initiative at $1.9 million during her budget address in December 2022.
“I am excited about the power of possibility that comes with it for those who answer the call to serve our great state and nation,” Waldie said.
The increase in tuition coverage for National Guard members was one of several proposals Noem introduced during the 2023 legislative session, which lawmakers concluded earlier this month, except for a day on March 27 to consider vetoes.