NAICU Washington Update

Post-9/11 GI Bill Improvements Process Begins

June 03, 2010

Ever since the Post-9/11 GI Bill was approved in June 2008, observers knew that the legislation would have a messy enactment.  The bill, which substantially increased GI Bill education benefits for many veterans, also entered new territory -- including the enactment of a special Yellow Ribbon Program for eligible military members, or their dependents, who enrolled in private college or out-of-state publics.

The first year under the new bill has been a mixed blessing.  Hundreds of thousands of military-related students have been able to go to the college of their choice with little or no debt.  But there also has been the need to navigate complex rules that have proven confusing for both colleges and veterans alike, and which have been an administrative nightmare for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Last week, Senate Veterans Affairs Chairman Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) introduced discussion legislation to start what he described as a process of reform and amendment, which "will not be done quickly or easily..."  Akaka emphasized that his bill is only meant to get the ball rolling, and that he welcomes the input of others who might have ideas for bill improvements.

Among the most important changes for private colleges is a proposal to eliminate the state-by-state tuition and fee caps that determine baseline benefits for the Yellow Ribbon Program.  Instead, there would be a single national baseline based on the most recent year's national average cost for all baccalaureate programs.  If enacted, this formula change could lead to a substantial decrease in Yellow Ribbon Program benefits and incentives for some colleges, but an increase at other colleges.  The average charge for tuition and fees for baccalaureate degrees among all four-year colleges for the 2009-10 academic year was $9,366.

Other changes include expanding the benefits to fulltime active-duty National Guard and Reserve members. Another would provide a separate $1,000 book allowance, de-coupled from the housing allowance, for the benefit of active-duty military families

NAICU will be working to ensure that the positive incentives for private colleges to participate in the existing Yellow Ribbon Program are retained.  To date, more than 1,100 private and public colleges have signed up to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program.  (See the Department of Veterans Affairs news release from last July.)