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G.I. Bill Has More Vets in College

More Veterans of the Iraq War are Pursuing Educational Opportunities

February 16, 2010 – A more generous version of the G.I. Bill that Congress passed in 2008 is allowing more veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to avail themselves of educational opportunities.

In fact, more than 300,000 veterans and their dependents are enrolled in American institutions of higher education – from smaller state institutions to Ivy League bastions. Community colleges and huge campuses such as the University of Texas, as well as online schools such as the University of Phoenix, are embracing veterans and their federal benefits.

Columbia University in New York is at the vanguard of this new influx of returning servicemen and women, with more than 200 veterans now enrolled in programs across the university. In 1947, the university created the School of General Studies to accommodate an earlier influx of World War II veterans, who were able to attend classes because of the original G.I. Bill, passed during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration. The newest incarnation of the G.I. Bill can be traced to the tragic events of September 11, 2001 – at least indirectly. Taking effect in August 2009 during the first year of Barack Obama’s administration, it is proving to be a boon to veterans and universities alike. For veterans who served at least three years since September 11, 2001, or who have disabilities, the federal program pays the entire tuition at public two- and four-year institutions, in addition to a housing allowance and extra dollars for books. The previous bill had less generous tuition reimbursements and no housing allowance or any dollars to buy books. In less than six months, the new bill has paid out more than $1 billion in benefits.

But the best clause in the new G.I. Bill is the provision known as the Yellow Ribbon program. This enhancement has made higher education more affordable for eligible veterans – those who served at least three years since September 11, 2001 – to attend expensive private colleges that pay some of the tuition.