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Senate Passes Peters’ Bipartisan Legislation to Support Maritime Academy Students

Peters’ Bill Would Expand Eligibility for State Maritime Academies’ Student Incentive Payment Program; Michigan is Home to One of Six National Maritime Academies

WASHINGTON, DC – Ahead of National Maritime Day on May 22, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) to expand the age eligibility for the Maritime Administration’s Student Incentive Payment Program.

The Changing Age-Determined Eligibility to Student Incentive Payments (CADETS) Act – which Peters reintroduced with U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-IN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Mike Braun (R-IN) – would expand the Student Incentive Payment Program eligibility age for financial assistance to cadets who attended one of the six State Maritime Academies and commit to a post-graduation service obligation to include any qualified student who will meet the age requirements for enlistment in the U.S. Navy Reserve at their time of graduation. In return for their commitment to serve, cadets can receive up to $32,000 in this incentive payment funding over four years to help offset the cost of tuition, uniforms, books, and living costs. The Great Lakes Maritime Academy – one of the six national academies – is based at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City. The bill, which the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee advanced in March, passed the Senate last Congress.

“Graduates of these prestigious academies go on to play a critical role in strengthening not only our robust maritime sector in Michigan, but also our economy and national security,” said Senator Peters, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and former Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve. “My bipartisan bill would incentivize more cadets to continue serving their country after graduation, while helping them receive a high-quality, affordable education.”

“The six State Maritime Academies are grateful to Sen. Peters’ CADETS Act,” said Admiral Jerry P. Achenbach, Superintendent, Great Lakes Maritime Academy. “This Act will allow military veterans and non-traditional students to be eligible for compensation for agreeing to serve the United States as commissioned officers in the Navy's Strategic Sealift Officer Program upon graduation.  Additionally, it addresses the current shortage of licensed officers in the U.S. Merchant Marine. Sen. Peters' dedication to the CADETS Act is greatly appreciated, and will benefit veterans and non-traditional students not only in Michigan, but across the nation.”

“The Lake Carriers’ Association and its member companies strongly support Senator Peters’ bill encouraging more Michiganders and Americans to join the U.S. maritime industry,” said Jim Weakley, President, Lake Carriers’ Association. “Those men and women who delayed college to serve their country should not be denied opportunities given to younger, more recent high school graduates. This common sense legislation is long overdue and we greatly appreciate Chairman Peters’ leadership.”

“The CADETS ACT is the definition of good legislation and takes yet another step towards ensuring our veterans have meaningful and far reaching career opportunities,” said Paul LaMarre III, Director, Port of Monroe. “As a veteran and merchant mariner I can attest that the leadership skills developed in the military are as essential to the sustainability of the Great Lakes maritime industry as the men and women who breathe life into it.”

Current Student Incentive Payment Program age requirements prohibit cadets older than 25 from participating in the program. State Maritime Academies have programs to recruit former military veterans and servicemembers, but most of these cadets are too old to qualify for this funding. As a result, older students—many of whom are veterans—therefore do not qualify for this program due to their age. Senator Peters’ CADETS Act would expand the eligibility age to include any qualified student who will meet the age requirements for enlistment in the U.S. Navy Reserve at their time of graduation, and ensure that high-performing, non-traditional cadets can receive this funding.

Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representative Jack Bergman (R-MI-1).

In the U.S. Senate, Peters has been a strong advocate for the United States’ maritime military institutions as well as the maritime sector. Peters is Chairman of the Surface Transportation, Maritime, Freight, and Ports Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Peters was recognized by the Navy Supply Corps Foundation Board of Directors as the 60th Navy Supply Corps Foundation Distinguished Alumnus. In 2018, Peters’ legislation to reauthorize the Maritime Administration – the federal agency responsible for promoting and maintaining a strong U.S. commercial maritime industry – was signed into law. The legislation required a competitiveness study to make recommendations for improving the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway system—one of the most heavily traveled waterways in the United States—and increased training opportunities for United States Merchant Marine Academy cadets.