New bill provides financial relief for military
By Emily Keahey
College expenses may be skyrocketing, but the Post 9/11 GI Bill gives financial relief to qualified military personnel. It is predicted to have a monumental impact because it offers the most comprehensive educational package since 1944.
Modeled after the original GI Bill, which was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt following World War II, the new version brings the benefits into the 21st century.
Congressman John Carter, who represents the 31st District, which includes Fort Hood, said, “It is a very positive program; we are an army of families. The expandability to the spouse and children is a great benefit in the bill.”
The Post 9/11 GI Bill went into effect Aug. 1 for eligible service members. To qualify, military personnel must perform active duty service for at least 90 days after Sept. 11, 2001, or 30 days of service with a service-connected disability discharge.
The level of benefits a service member receives is based on the amount of service performed. It ranges from 40 percent for at least 90 days to 100 percent for 36 or more months.
This bill also gives current and previously active reservists and National Guard members the same benefits as active duty service members.
Other than tuition and fees, service members can possibly receive a monthly housing allowance, a book and supply stipend, yellow ribbon payments, a college fund or “kicker,” and rural benefit payments. Each additional benefit has its own set of requirements.
One of the biggest points in the bill is for the first time in history the unused educational benefits will be able to transfer to a service member’s
spouse or children.
Junior youth ministry major Bethany Carter, who also received the benefits through her father said, “(The bill) actually came at the perfect time, because we were worried about how we were going to pay for next semester …. Many people have to use a great portion of (their salary) to pay off college loans, but I will be able to focus on my ministry and on God’s plan.”
Due to the university’s close proximity to Fort Hood, Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Ron Brown said, “We look at it as a great opportunity for UMHB to increase our presence with Fort Hood families … and we think it will be good for our enrollment.”
Brown has high hopes for the bill because although the benefit had only been around for three weeks when classes started, the school had 62 students enroll for the fall 2009 semester using the new bill’s benefits. To help service members learn that the bill is available, UMHB plans to advertise not only through radio and television, but the school also intends to put a billboard around the Nolanville area, which is between the school and military base.
President Barack Obama said in a celebratory speech at George Mason University in Virginia, the first GI Bill helped produce “Three Presidents, three Supreme Court justices, 14 Nobel Prize winners and two dozen Pulitzer Prize winners, but more importantly, it produced hundreds of thousands of scientists and engineers, doctors and nurses.”
Junior Christian ministries major Abby Mayfield, who received the benefits from her father, said, “I volunteer with Military Community Youth Ministry who partners with Young Life to provide ministry to teens on Fort Hood, and a lot of them wouldn’t plan on going to college if it wasn’t for the GI bill. I’m sure (the new bill) will have the same effect as the old one … providing education for the lower classes will always cause more kids to go to college and therefore more people in the educated work force.”