Are GI Bill Benefits in Jeopardy of Being Cut?

by Ron Kness on March 13, 2013

There is some saber-rattling again concerning GI Bill benefits. For some reason, when it comes to deficit reduction, the conversation gets around to cutting GI Bill benefits. One reason for the focus this time is on “return on investment.” In other words, how many GI Bill users are actually graduating from a four-year college? Part of the issue is there really isn’t any hard facts to base anything on, positive or negative.

Some facts we do know from the VA is that since the inception of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, 817,000 veterans have went to school to the tune of $20 million. We just don’t how many of those graduated. In the Fall 2012 semester, we know 480,000 student-veterans were enrolled as GI Bill users.

To help establish some hard data, the VA and the Student Veterans of America (SVA) have partnered up with the mission data collection with the end-goal being determining accurate graduation rates of student-veterans nationwide.

To help establish some hard data, the VA and the Student Veterans of America (SVA) have partnered up with the mission data collection with the end-goal being determining accurate graduation rates of student-veterans nationwide.

And of course because the lack of hard data, those for and against the GI Bill have each fabricated many misconceptions and baseless claims about student-veteran success in college, or lack thereof, depending on which side of the fence they are on. Huffington Post reported in October 2012 that 88% of new student-veterans drop out after only one year in school, but how did they arrive at that figure if data is not being collected at a central source? I doubt if they surveyed each and every school in the nation.

But because there isn’t a national database of retention facts, there are a couple of problems working against the GI Bill:

  1. The trend seems to be student veterans moving around a lot and thus making nationwide tracking even more difficult. Part of this movement has to do with student veterans starting out at a community college and then after two years moving to a four-year school. With the SVA and VA establishing a nationwide tracking program, this should make tracking student-veterans from year-one to graduation more accurate and visible.
  2. In the past, for-profit institutions have been collecting roughly 40%  of GI Bill education benefits from the VA for student-veterans yet are only graduating about 28% of those GI Bill users. This raises the question “Are these schools more interested in the money verses providing a quality education, which leads to a higher drop-out rate?”

One step in the right direction to curb GI Bill predatory marketing is that the VA trademarked the term “GI Bill”. With it now trademarked, no school can use the term GI Bill in their website domain names, thus eliminating schools from disguising themselves as connected with the VA.

However, much more work needs to be done to show the American people that the GI Bill is a good investment in their nation’s veterans and that by using the education assistance that it provides, veterans can become productive and contributing members of society. One thing you can do is to contact your legislators as ask their support for the GI Bill.

Photo courtesy US Army Africa

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