Picking up where GI Bill falls short
November 16, 2007
WASHINGTON — The Fund for Veterans Education will award more than $4 million in college scholarships over the next two years as part of a campaign to fill funding gaps in military education benefits.
“These veterans did the job that was asked of them, but today’s GI Bill doesn’t do its job,” Matt Boulay, president of the fund, said at a Washington event Thursday launching the campaign. “Today’s benefits cover just a fraction of the cost of getting a college degree.”
The group will announce its first 100 scholarship winners — at least one from each state — over the next two weeks. The scholarships cover all tuition, fees and book costs beyond what the veterans and troops receive via military education benefits.
Currently, the maximum education benefit available to active-duty troops who served in Iraq or Afghanistan is about $13,000 a year, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. But statistics from the College Board show expenses at in-state colleges average nearly $16,000, and out-of-state students pay upwards of $26,000.
Benefits for guardsmen and reservists are even smaller, averaging about $5,300 a year, and require those troops to stay in the service while they receive the benefit.
Fund officials said that that forces many young vets to either pick up large student loans to complete their degree or discourages them from attending college at all. According to their research, more than 30 percent of veterans eligible for the education benefits skip using any of that money.
Following the event, fund officials and the scholarship recipients visited lawmakers to lobby for updates in the GI Bill’s education benefits. Clifford Stanley, head of Scholarship America, said that when the measure was originally passed it radically shaped the lives of not just World War II veterans, but also the rest of the country.
“We know these veterans can be successful leaders and role models,” he said. “Now we just need to give them the opportunity.”
Although the initial 100 scholarship winners have already been selected, the fund is still accepting applications for future scholarships as part of their campaign.
Applicants must have served for at least 60 days in either Iraq or Afghanistan or must have been wounded in either combat theater; be enrolled in a undergraduate program, including technical schools; and have applied for all military benefits and federal needs-based grants.
For more information, visit www.veteransfund.org.