In 2009 the Post-9/11 GI Bill replaced the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) as the leading benefit for veterans’ educational assistance. But this newfound benefit is destined to a fate similar to the original GI Bill implemented post-WWII: A transformative educational program that was slowly degraded as public awareness, and appreciation, for our military veterans waned.
We need to sustain public awareness of the transformative potential of the GI Bill for veterans. Otherwise it is only a matter of time before an eager Congress and an apathetic public are left with a GI Bill that does not provide for our veterans.
Some veterans and supporters will recall the days when the GI Bill was more of an incentive to go to school than actual support for an education. The MGIB, which veterans lived with for over two decades, was a ridiculous insult compared to the massive investment in veterans’ education that today’s benefits represent. The Post 9/11 GI Bill easily surpasses many full tuition scholarships with extra incentives including book and housing stipends.
Just weeks into the War on Terror, as hundreds of thousands of young men and women began stepping up to bear the burdens of their nation’s call to service, the MGIB was humming along paying out a cool $672 per month max. It was a golden era when the average annual cost of attending college was $9,633. No that’s a mistake; the average annual cost was $9,633 at public institutions. So your MGIB would still bring you up short about $1,000. At the time, the average annual cost of tuition was $13,709 for all institutions.
Take a moment and think about that. A veteran comes home in mid-2002 with the sands of Afghanistan still on their boots. They sign up for school and their first award letter comes letting them know that they need to roll up their sleeves, pick up those books, and get a job to put themselves through school.
Recently, members of Congress have floated the idea of capping the Post-9/11 GI Bill tuition reimbursement rate at 3%. If 3% seems reasonable, it should be noted that the average growth in tuition costs is around 6% per year. In a short period of time veterans would be left paying for their education out of pocket, retracting a promise made to post-9/11 veterans a three short years ago.
We seem to be in a rush to forget not only those who have served, but the failures of the MGIB. Capping, or perhaps it is more fitting to use the word cutting, the GI Bill is precisely the kind of policy that left us with a non-functional MGIB and forced veterans to demand a new benefit. Proposed savings from capping the GI Bill’s growth come at with a cost directly born by veterans who have already born so much. When the last soldier comes home from Afghanistan their GI Bill ought to cover the cost of their education. Under the tuition cap recommendation, it will not.
We at SVA still have faith that there are those in Congress who have the vision to see the inherent wisdom in the investment that the GI Bill represents. This generation of veterans and generations to come carry the greatness of our people with them. It is a greatness made manifest only through wise investment and a careful stewardship of that investment. Student Veterans of America will remain a vigilant defender of America’s investment in our veterans. We invite our friends, allies, and all Americans to stand watch with us over our GI Bill.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons