The G.I. Bill that most are familiar with was first passed after World War II. There’s now a more updated version that aims to address the needs of today’s student veterans.
The new bill, the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, which took effect on Aug. 1, 2009, is the first education bill for veterans since the Montgomery G.I. Bill passed in 1944. The bill aims to aid student veterans — at the University and across the country — with their tuition costs.
Philip Larson, transition specialist in the University’s Office of New Student Programs, said he supports the new bill, which contributes to what he believes was a previously outdated program. According to Larson, the bill covers the tuition of student veterans up to the cost of undergraduate in-state tuition at the most expensive public university in the state.
He added that the bill also offers student veterans stipends for housing and books, around $1,000 each. To qualify for receiving the bill’s benefits, student veterans must be 90 days past their initial training.
Larson said the University has “approximately 200 military service people on campus, and that includes active military, national guard reserve and veterans who have served in the armed forces,” which the bill affects.
Larson added that student veterans can choose not to take part in the program and save their eligibility for graduate school. In addition, if a student veteran is currently on active duty, he or she is eligible for additional benefits.
The University also participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, a special partnership between the University and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
For student veterans who want to attend a program that’s more expensive than what the new G.I. Bill covers — for example, if an out-of-state student veteran wants to attend the University — the University will pay half the gap between those costs and the V.A. will match the University’s contribution.
“For folks that are 100-percent eligible for the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, who have un-met tuition needs, the Yellow Ribbon Program offsets some of their costs,” Larson said. “For most programs and most degrees at the University, the student veteran will have no out-of-pocket tuition expense.”
LSA senior Derek Blumke, founder and president of Student Veterans of America, hailed the new G.I. Bill as a needed overhaul of the older version.
“(The old G.I. Bill) wasn’t cutting it,” he said. “It wasn’t covering the cost of tuition.”
Blumke added that the bill offers student veterans opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise.
“It’s going to affect their lives and put them on a track for a great career,” he said.
Student veterans not only benefit from the bill, but they were also integral in getting it passed, according to Blumke. SVA lobbied on Capital Hill to get the bill passed, Blumke said.
“Our role was a grassroots effort,” he said.
LSA junior David Barnhart, a member of SVA, said he currently utilizes the new G.I. Bill and Yellow Ribbon Program to finance his education.
“I mean right now it’s basically a full ride to go to U of M,” Barnhart said.
Barnhart added that the bill has offered him an educational experience that he never would have had otherwise.
“It’s really opened up huge opportunities,” Barnhart said. “Without the new GI Bill, I wouldn’t have been able to afford to come here.”
Michael Forrest, program director for Affirmative Action and Veterans Affairs at Ohio State University, said OSU offers programs for veterans similar to those at the University of Michigan.
Forrest said OSU will give automatic residency to any out-of-state student veteran, with an honorable discharge and one year of service, that want to attend OSU.
In addition to benefits for student veterans, Forrest said OSU offers a few classes exclusively for veterans, adding that the program has been “pretty successful.”
Forrest also said approximately 1,021 veterans are attending OSU under the G.I. Bill benefits.
Scott Owczarek, associate registrar for registration services at MSU, said the programs offered at MSU are similar to those offered at other universities in the Big Ten and across the country. He added that MSU offers a unique program for those veterans who are deemed disabled by the military.
“Anybody that is classified as disabled, we would give them full tuition and fees,” Owczarek said.
Owczarek said MSU currently has about 330 to 340 student veterans on campus, and added that MSU also participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program.