Amendment seeks to correct Post 9/11 GI Bill technicality
California veterans can breathe a little easier this week as an important technicality in the Post 9/11 GI Bill could soon be remedied.
During an Education and Labor Committee markup of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (H.R. 3221), Congressman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon included an amendment which would require the Secretary of Education to provide grants to compensate for disparities among tuition practices between states.
"Fixing this issue with the Post 9/11 GI bill means a lot to the state, the California delegation, and our nation's veterans." McKeon said. "We are nearing the August 1st deadline, when checks are dispersed to our nation's veterans. Without a fix, many of our courageous veterans will be unpleasantly surprised when they don't receive the education dollars they were expecting."
California's public institutions of higher education do not charge tuition to in-state residents. Rather, students are charged general fees, which are often higher than similar fees at other schools, up to $6,500 per term. Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, this different terminology means veterans here are not eligible for the full amount they might receive in other states. Veterans attending private institutions such as Stanford University - with tuition of about $37,000 and fees of $1,000 - are currently only eligible for the $1,000 in fees. Because such veterans would be eligible for more if they had attended a state school, money is leftover.
Similarly, a veteran in Massachusetts attending Boston College would be charged $9,600 per term in tuition and approximately $515 per term in fees. He or she would be eligible for a Post 9/11 GI bill benefit of $858 per term in tuition and $5,900 per term in fees. Of that total amount, the veteran would use all of the tuition payment eligibility but only $1,030 of the total amount of funds available in fees leaving approximately $5,385 unused.
The new amendment would allow the Secretaries of Education and Veterans Affairs to distribute this leftover money as supplemental grants to veterans impacted by zero or low-tuition policies. Such grants would allow veterans to use the maximum amount charged in both tuition and fees to an in-state resident at a public institution of higher education.
In a previous House Education & Labor Committee hearing, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated that fixing the problem is a "no brainer," when McKeon asked for his thoughts.
"It's unfortunate that my amendment was necessary today, but I am optimistic that we can move it forward and help California and other veterans across the country pursue the college education of their choice, as they deserve for their service," McKeon said. "This is a technical issue with the Post 9/11 G.I. bill that has been poorly interpreted against the intent of Congress, which is negatively impacting thousands of our nation's deserving veterans."
In May, McKeon and Representative Mike Thompson introduced the Veterans Educational Equity Act (H.R. 2474), which would ensure California veterans can benefit from the full amount to which they are entitled. The bill currently has 47 co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle and support from veterans and stakeholders.