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Tuition reimbursement for South Dakota National Guard members now law

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C.J. Keene
South Dakota Public Broadcasting
Gov. Kristi Noem, surrounded by members of the South Dakota National Guard and Lt. Governor Larry Rhoden, signs into law HB1039.

Gov. Kristi Noem signed HB 1039 into law at the Range Road Armory in Rapid City this week, which provides 100% tuition reimbursement for National Guard members at Board of Regents and trade institutions.

Noem, whose father served in the Guard, said this has been discussed since her time in state legislature in the mid-2000’s.

“This is a day that for many years we’ve talked about being able to stand in front of our guardsmen and sign a bill that would allow 100% tuition reimbursement – and that is exactly what we are doing today," Noem said. "We all know the sacrifices that you make, but those of us that haven’t served don’t understand them, we haven’t been through them.”

Noem said education opportunities remain a selling point for enlistees.

“Over the years as I’ve talked to new members who have signed up and raised their hands to volunteer for the Guard, they’ve told me one of the reasons they did was because of the help with their education," Noem said. "That it was critically important to them and a tool that would allow them to serve and still get the education they need to provide for their families.”

Noem said it’s an opportunity to keep educated South Dakotans in the state.

“I’m hoping that every single Guard member who is born and raised here will want to stay, get their education here," Noem said. "I always tell people if you can get people if you can get a kid to stay in South Dakota and go to college or technical school, there’s a pretty good chance they’re going to fall in love with somebody at that school too, and they’re going to want to stay here and raise a family.”

Shortly after the bill signing was the deployment ceremony for the 216th Firefighting Detachment of the South Dakota National Guard to Romania.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering education, healthcare, arts and culture.