THE UNTOLD STORIES
GI Bill alive and well at colleges nationwide BY DEREK SWANSON AND JAKE VOLK

 

Leaving the armed forces can be daunting for many, especially when deciding whether to work or go to school. For years, no adequate solution was implemented for the nation’s veterans, until June 22, 1944 when the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, or GI Bill, was passed.

 

Before passage of the bill, soldiers found themselves underqualified to enter the workforce when they returned home; many could not afford to attend college. However, with the GI Bill, the soldiers were offered the opportunity to attend college, receive loan money and find work. The bill lead directly to the success of many military personnel. The original bill covered tuition for colleges or trade schools and offered low interest mortgage payments. Top notch medical care was also available to those under the GI Bill. With the passing of the bill, the nation’s economy boomed as many WWII veterans attended college and earned degrees, which resulted in a larger professional workforce with highly qualified individuals.

 

“Their service did pave the way for the government to allow them these benefits,” said Marcus Perry, Lewis assistant director of admissions and the veterans certifying official. “Today they’ve done a better job with job placement, preparing the soldiers for transitioning back to civilian life and using their educational benefits.”

 

The original GI Bill contained some flaws that would be addressed in revisions of future legislation. For instance, the bill would cover up to $500 in tuition per year, which would be an insufficient amount today. In 2008, the post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act, or post 9/11 GI Bill was passed. This new bill offered veterans who were active duty or served after 9/11 greater educational benefits.

 

Previously, a uniform stipend was given to all who served, regardless of duration of service. With the post 9/11 bill, the stipend is based on time served. If they served 36 months, then 100 percent of the tuition is covered. A housing and book stipend is also available. For anyone who served less than 36 months, only part of the tuition would not be covered. For instance, for someone who served for 24 months, around 80 percent of the tuition is covered.

 

 “Our nation has no greater responsibility than to support our men and women in uniform,” said former President George W. Bush after signing the post 9/11 bill.

 

In 2018, any tuition at or under $22,805 is fully covered for someone who served the full 36 month requirement. Any amount above could be covered by the Yellow Ribbon Program, which Lewis participates in.

 

“The overall cap that each student has for each academic year is around $60,000,” said Perry. “So none of our students even get close to that overall cap.”

 

The bill was revised once again in 2017 by President Trump, and it is now called the Forever GI Bill, which most notably eliminated the delimiting date that was in place for the post 9/11 bill. Students previously had a set time after discharge to use their GI benefits, or they would expire. For anyone discharged after Jan. 1, 2013, the student no longer has a set time frame when the bill will expire. More work-study programs were also incorporated as a result.

 

At Lewis’ Romeoville campus, close to 300 students are veterans studying with the aid of the GI Bill. Including active duty students at the Albuquerque campus, there are nearly 700 military affiliates. However, there is a VA  rule that veterans cannot make up more than 15 percent of the student body of any given program. The 85-15 rule, as it is known, was created when the VA noticed veteran students, mostly flight majors, were accumulating astronomical costs with flight hours and other expenses. Perry expressed that this has not been an issue for Lewis, and that only 12 aviation management students are veterans.

 

Lewis is ranked in the top five schools for veterans in the U.S. and is the top school for veterans in Illinois. With the new Forever GI Bill enacted last year, the nation’s veterans will have access to exceptional education and medical services. Ultimitely, our veteran students are able to establish themselves as full members of in-country, American society. Rep. Dan Lipinski once said, “Let us remember the service of our veterans, and let us renew our national promise to fulfill our sacred obligations to our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much so that we can live free.”

 

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