CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WBOY) — The cap on benefits from the West Virginia National Guard’s Educational Encouragement Program (WVEEP) for Army and Air Guard members has been increased, the WVNG announced Tuesday.

According to a news release, the cap amount of the benefit will be increased from $7,000 to $9,000 per service member starting Jan. 1, 2023.

Service members can use the benefit at accredited colleges and universities within the state to cover fees for education such as library, technology and lab fees.

“Near the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, our Educational Encouragement Committee had begun the process to evaluate tuition assistance and provide a recommendation on increases to ensure we’re taking care of Soldiers and Airmen who choose to serve in our Guard,” said Maj. Gen. Bill Crane, Adjutant General of the WVNG in the release. “With rising inflation, cost of living, and higher education expenses increasing, we knew it was something we had to get after.”

Crane also thanked Gov. Jim Justice and the West Virginia Legislature for authorizing the funding for the increase.

“I say it all the time, but we owe everything to our National Guard, and I am just thrilled that they have been able to work within the budget to provide more benefit directly to these brave men and women,” Gov. Justice said.

To be eligible for the program, Guardsmen must have completed Basic Combat Training, apply before May 1 for the fall semester and Nov. 1 for the spring semester, and meet all other service requirements. Applications can be submitted here.