Veterans profit from GI Bill

By Elizabeth zinchuk

New national veteran tuition legislation is behind the times for the university.

The House of Representatives passed the GI Tuition Fairness Act, Feb. 3. One provision of the bill requires public universities eligible for the GI Bill to charge in-state tuition rates to veterans regardless of state of residence. The bill was pushed as a way to help veterans who end up living in a new state once their service ends and find the government’s reimbursement does not fully cover the higher tuition rates for students from out of state.

If a public school does not offer in-state tuition and fees to veterans, it would no longer receive GI Bill education payments.


According to the College Board, the average non-resident tuition rate at public 4-year schools is $21,706 while resident rates average $8,655. If the bill becomes law, it takes effect Aug. 1.

Paul Copeland, veteran services coordinator, said SIU adopted a policy similar to the legislation almost one year ago.

“SIU, as of about a year ago, the board of trustees passed a policy that any veteran with a honorable discharge would be given an alternate tuition rate equivalent to the in-state tuition rate,” he said.

Copeland said they adopted the policy because veterans are valuable students to have at any university and should be able to attend school with the least amount of hassle.

“I think more and more people are beginning to understand and acknowledge that veterans are a great resource to have on campus,” Copeland said.

Copeland said the new addition to the GI Bill was established to provide benefits in the same way a university would try to attract high achieving students.

“So for the same reason we would offer an in state tuition rate to a high achieving scholar in another state, we want to attract high- quality veteran students,” Copeland said.


However, he said veterans who were enrolled before the policy was enacted do not get the benefits of it.

“That policy has a very small limitation and it basically applies only to those moving forward,” Copeland said. “So a student already enrolled in a previous semester didn’t get to take advantage of that policy.”

Copeland said the limitation did not cause much conflict.

“For the most part it doesn’t really have an impact and it was working reasonably well for us,” Copeland said.

Copeland said the bill helps veterans because they often move around frequently throughout their military service.

“They’re not necessarily residents anywhere so this way they are treated as residents anywhere,” Copeland said.

Congressman Bill Enyart, said the new legislation is taking a step in the right direction.

“These brave men and women have given in service to our country,” he said. “We owe them no less than to make sure they have all the tools necessary to be successful upon separation from the military.”

Ryan McKennedy, advisor to the veteran registered student organization and a graduate student in social work from Springfield, said the new legislation helps veterans study what they want if their state does not have their desired program.

“It gives veterans getting out of the military or after their service the best opportunity to get the education of their choice,” McKennedy said “It’s kind of taking what we already have with the GI Bill kind of to the next level, because there might be a program that’s not available to them otherwise”

McKennedy said when the original GI Bill was passed, the increase in the amounts of veteran owned businesses and veterans in the workforce was extreme.

“We will hopefully see a similar trend with our generation with the expansion of GI Bill and in-state tuition,” McKennedy said.

McKennedy said he started his college search while still deployed in Afghanistan. He said he was influenced to come to SIU when he saw it ranked among one of the most veteran friendly schools, how friendly the veteran office was and how it handles the GI Bill.

The biggest challenges veterans often face when coming to college are the dramatic shifts in environment, he said.

“You have very unique friendships with the people on your team or in your unit, and you get really close with some of those people,” McKennedy said. “When you come here, to college or even to the civilian world a lot of that stuff goes away.”

Copeland said veterans also face difficulties when transitioning to college because they face a few transition months when they have no income between the end of their tour and when GI Bill benefits start. GI Bill benefits do not start until they actually begin class.

This can be hard when veterans or their families are establishing a new place to live, he said.

“Trying to rebuild that support system that we have in the military is one of the most difficult things,” McKennedy said.

McKennedy said getting involved with their college or community is the most important change they can make to rebuild the support system they lost after active duty.

Other provisions of the GI Tuition Fairness Act include an extension of eligibility for The Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program. Compensation increased under the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2013 to be rounded down to the next whole dollar amount. It also requires secretaries of veteran affairs to notify appropriate entities about each case of an infectious disease or condition diagnosed at a veterans administration medical facility.