NAICU Washington Update

Post-9/11 GI Bill Update

December 22, 2010

Among the measures that moved through the "lame-duck" session of Congress was the "Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010," sponsored by Senator Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii). (See Washington Update, August 6.)

The measure enhances education benefits to veterans, and expands eligibility under the program to more National Guard members.  The measure also establishes a single national figure of $17,500 as the cap for tuition and fee payments to veterans attending non-public institutions, replacing the current state-by-state caps.

The existing state caps, which vary widely across states, are used both to calculate a veteran's basic tuition-and-fee benefit as well as to establish the baseline for the special "Yellow Ribbon" program.  In most states, this amount exceeds the current benefit caps.  However, for some private non-profit institutions in several states, the change will mean that some students will receive a lower tuition-and-fee benefit or, in other cases, that institutions will have to offer full "Yellow Ribbon" benefits to cover the difference.

The bill also would make the GI Bill the "last payer" of tuition and fee benefits. Although this provision is intended to simplify program administration, it is likely to have the opposite effect.

NAICU and other higher education associations endorsed the House version of this legislation (H.R. 6430), introduced by Rep. Walt Minnick (D-Idaho). It included the same enhanced benefits for veterans as the Senate bill, but also providing a "hold-harmless" clause to assure that current students would not see an abrupt drop in their benefits. Also, the House version didn't include a "last payer" provision. However, because this measure was considered during the waning days of the 111th Congress, the House didn't consider H.R. 6430, but instead simply approved the Senate bill and sent it on to the president for signature.

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