NAICU Washington Update

Momentum Growing for Expanded GI Bill

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and other proponents of improved educational opportunities for veterans have stepped up efforts to provide more generous benefits under the GI Bill.

In January 2007, Webb introduced the "Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2007" (S. 22), which would have provided educational benefits paralleling those of the post-World War II GI Bill. Among others, these benefits included full tuition, books, fees, a monthly stipend, and coverage of other training costs at the veteran's institution of choice.

The prospects for enactment of the legislation are unclear, in large part due to its substantial price tag. This past February, however, Webb unveiled a revised bill with a number of changes to reduce its cost. Currently, 56 Senators are signed on to the measure. A companion bill, H.R. 5740, was introduced in the House by Rep. Harry Mitchell (D-Ariz.) on April 7, with 241 cosponsors. Also, media attention has increased throughout the month, and the issue has even entered the presidential election debates.

The revised bill includes a cap on the tuition benefit at the amount of in-state tuition at the most expensive public college in a state. At the same time, the revised measure also creates a federal program that would match, dollar-for-dollar, colleges' contributions to help veterans cover tuition costs above the in-state public tuition cap. Institutions would not be required to make any contributions. Those that chose to do so could contribute any amount, or could limit the number of veterans eligible for the aid.

In introducing the revised bill, Webb and the principal cosponsors - Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), John Warner (R-Va.), and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) - spoke on the Senate floor. Especially noteworthy was Warner's strong statement on the importance of assisting veterans to attend the college of their choice:

"The original GI Bill of Rights was enacted in 1944, and in successive Congresses they made changes to it. But the key to the bill that the two of us from World War II - Senator Lautenberg and myself - is that our group of veterans could go to any college or university of his choice, subject to academic or admission requirements . . . Today's GI bill . . . simply does not have the financial provisions to enable young men and women of this generation to go to any campus they desire . . . And so we have carefully structured in this bill the opportunity for institutions of higher learning to step up and share in this program."

Warner's full statement contains several other references to maintaining veterans' options for attending private colleges.

NAICU has endorsed the expanded GI Bill, and will take part in a rally at the U.S. Capitol on April 29 in support of the increased benefits. They are likely to be added as an amendment to the emergency war funding bill to be debated by Congress in the coming weeks.

For more information, contact Susan Hattan,

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