Not the best hero's welcome

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Few should be honored more than our nation's military. In exchange for these people offering their lives to protect and serve their country, taxpayers offer many resources so service members can have a good quality of life after they're discharged.

That's why a bill cosponsored by Augusta's two state senators, J.B. Powell and Ed Tarver, at least sounds like a good idea on the surface.

Senate Bill 74 seeks to offer admittance into any University System college in Georgia to high school graduates who "served in active duty in the United States armed forces in combat in, but not limited to, Iraq and Afghanistan."

What's not to like about that, right? Also called the Returning Hero Education Act, S.B. 74's intent is to allow smoother sailing for service members into civilian life.

But while the intent may be good, the reasoning is bad.

The wording of the bill essentially allows any military veteran into any Georgia college without fully taking into account whether the new civilian can academically hack it. SAT scores too low? You're in. High school grade-point average too low? You're still in. Standardized test scores too low? You're still in. That simply doesn't seem fair to every other college applicant who has to jump through those academic hoops.

And believe it, veterans can make those jumps. Members of the military have some of the best chances these days to be prepared for college. With the loads of training, tests and courses available to service members, America arguably has the best-educated fighting force in the world. Soldiers in the field are smarter than ever, and no one is prouder of that than we are.

If bright, freshly discharged young soldiers want to attend college, they can enroll like everybody else. If they don't want to, they simply won't. Veterans don't need a Returning Hero Education Act to grease the skids for them to attend college.

But Powell thinks they do. He said he drafted his bill after hearing stories of returning veterans tangling with college-admission red tape.

Well, if that's the problem, fix it on the bureaucratic end. Draft a bill to better clarify college admission policies, and how veterans will be classified. Or draft a bill that logically streamlines the application process for academically qualified veterans.

But don't merely throw open colleges' doors to every returning service member. It seems like a nice bouquet to toss to our beloved veterans, but it's too simplistic an answer that doesn't correctly address the real red-tape problem.


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