Fall 2010 marked the second anniversary of the implementation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The bill was passed on June 30, 2008 and went into effect on Augsut 1, 2009. The bill greatly expanded higher education benefits to veterans who served since September 11, 2001.
Earlier this year, both the U.S. House and Senate introduced legislation to improve and clarify the legislation. The Post-9/11 Veteran’s Education Improvement Act of 2010 (S. 3447 and H.R. 5933) offers changes to current law in response to criticisms and implementation problems as well as the need to ensure the bill is relevant to the needs of today’s veteran students.
The bills introduced in 2010 do not dramatically change the funding of public education for veterans, but instead focus on changes to the contribution to private education. Students attending public institutions would have their tuition and fees fully covered, effectively the same as current law .
The Senate version however would require a cap at private institutions to be a national average of the tuition and fees for both public and private programs, rather than the highest public program in a student’s state. The House version would require a $20,000 cap.
Both changes differ from current law. Current law allows the state to set the base benefit; the maximum benefit equates to the most expensive in-state undergraduate tuition and fees at a public institution of higher education in the state’s system. Veterans who attend a public institution as an out-of-state student or who attend a private institution may apply the maximum base benefit toward the out-of-state tuition public or private institution tuition and fees. To cover any remaining expenses for veterans the Yellow Ribbon Program matches institutuional dollars put forth to reduce the remaining expenses with dollars from the federal government to eliminate the funding gap.
The changes proposed in the new legislation have both challenges and strengths. The challenge emerges the inclusion of caps, which would likely result in a lower amount that veterans would receive at private instituitons and would necessitate that institutions contribute more funds towards the Yellow Ribbon Program. The strengths the changes offer include the creation of a national standard and a level playing field for all veterans across all states.
In addition to a cap, both bills provide additional changes. Among these changes are an eligibility extension to those who have served full-time in the National Guard and Reserve and an expansion of the types of institutions at which veterans can receive benefits. Finally, both bills call for an increase in the adminstrative cost allowance to accomodate the procedures involved in implementation.