WASHINGTON – Nearly one in four veterans who enrolled in college classes last year did so because of the new GI Bill benefits made available to them, according to a report released last week by the RAND Corporation and the American Council on Education.
That’s exactly the result lawmakers hoped for when they passed the new GI Bill benefits two years ago. Before the benefits overhaul, veterans groups had complained that the amount of college tuition and students’ living costs that the traditional GI Bill covered was not enough for many veterans to get a degree.
But the latest study, which polled more than 300 student veterans through surveys and focus groups, found that about 24 percent of survey respondents and large number of focus group participants said the new GI Bill benefits “had driven their decision to enroll in higher education.” Under the new plan, veterans are guaranteed four years of tuition payments at state universities, plus a monthly living stipend and money for books.
The report also found that about 18 percent of survey respondents said the new GI Bill’s existence had driven their choice of college, with the new benefits making higher-price schools a feasible option.
Congress is considering legislation that would offer more changes to veterans’ college benefits, including simplifying the payment process by offering a standard tuition payment figure for most college-bound veterans, rather than specific payments for every state. However, veterans lobbying groups on Capitol Hill say they don’t expect that measure to pass until next year.