Tusculum University’s support of students who are serving in the Tennessee National Guard has earned special recognition from the state military.

Recently, representatives of that unit presented an Award of Excellence to Dr. Madison Sowell, provost and vice president of academic affairs, and Dr. Lisa Johnson, associate vice president of academic affairs. The award recognizes Tusculum for allowing these students to defer payment of their tuition until the end of each semester, when the guard pays the costs through the Tennessee STRONG Act.

STRONG stands for Support Training and Renewing Opportunity for National Guardsmen. The act has been in effect for three years and is currently available to students pursuing bachelor’s degrees, with plans to expand to master’s degrees. It applies to new recruits as well as those who were already in the guard when the act was passed.

“Students who serve their country and fellow citizens through the Tennessee National Guard deserve our gratitude,” said Dale Laney, Tusculum’s director of veterans services and a retired Air Force chief master sergeant. “They bring honor to the university and are an outstanding example of the principle of civic engagement we hold dear at Tusculum. We enthusiastically embrace the opportunity to assist them with their academic pursuits.”

Tusculum’s willingness to defer tuition is helpful because guard members do not have to worry about paying the tuition upfront. This is significant because some of them might not be able to afford that, said Maj. Mike Smith with the Alpha Company Recruiting Command with the Tennessee National Guard.

“That part means so much to our soldiers and airmen,” he said. “Most of them are going to school full time and either working a part-time job or just performing their Tennessee National Guard duties outside the classroom. A lot of them don’t have the means to provide payment and be reimbursed later. Tusculum is performing a great service for them and our country.”

The act limits the amount the state will pay to the cost of tuition at the University of Tennessee, but other military benefits can cover any remaining costs for these students, Smith said. The act also requires that students maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average.