The Alabama G.I. Dependent Scholarship Program now allows more inclusivity after Gov. Kay Ivey recently signed House Bill 554.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Guntersville, extends the Alabama G.I. Dependent Scholarship Program to include comprehensive transition and postsecondary programs (CTPs) for students with intellectual disabilities. Previously, the scholarship program was only permitted to pay for college-level classes.

The scholarship program, which is administered by the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs (ADVA), will help cover the costs of the student’s tuition, required textbooks, and instructional fees for classes included in the CTP, regardless of whether it is a college-level class. Only programs at public four-year institutions in Alabama are authorized under the new law – community colleges, private schools, and out-of-state schools are not included.

A CTP is a postsecondary degree, certificate or non‐degree program sponsored by a college that is approved by the U.S. Department of Education and is designed to support students with intellectual disabilities as they continue to receive instruction in academic, career, and independent living to prepare for gainful employment. The EAGLES program at Auburn University and PASSAGE USA at the University of South Alabama are examples of Alabama CTPs.

This program expansion comes as the ADVA is receiving a substantial increase in applications for the Alabama G.I. Dependent Scholarship Program. With many students planning to return to college campuses this fall, there was a 25% increase in applicants from March-May 2021 from the same period a year ago.

Nearly 7,500 students participated in the scholarship program in 2020. Traditionally, approximately 4% of in-state students at public colleges and universities in Alabama are in the program.