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Proposed Bills Would Give Veterans Better Access to Higher Education



By Catherine Groux
Posted March 12, 2012 04:22 PM

Three new bills would give veterans improved access to higher education.
Three new bills would give veterans improved access to higher education.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that, given the many advantages of higher education, in 2009 about 26% of veterans age 25 and older held at least a bachelor's degree. This is about 1 percentage point higher than the general American population.

Earning a degree can be extremely important for veterans who want to enter the workforce. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that while about 10.5% of veterans with a high school diploma were unemployed in 2010, this figure was reduced to about 9% for those who completed an associate's degree or some college. Additionally, among veterans who earned a bachelor's degree or higher, the unemployment rate was further reduced to 5.2%.

For this reason, David J. Renza, veteran and co-author of Military Education Benefits for College, said earning a degree has never been more crucial for veterans.

"Education is more important now than ever," Renza said, as quoted by the GI Bill's website. "How you choose to allocate your [education] dollar and how it's going to impact you means even more in this economy."

In order to encourage more veterans to pursue higher education, the House of Representatives is currently considering three bills that would expand their benefits, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

Specifically, the bills would extend a $17,500 cap on tuition at private colleges to out-of-state students who attend public schools. Currently, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that between 25,000 and 35,000 veterans pay out-of-state tuition at public colleges. With the new bills, these students would receive the same benefits as individuals who attend private schools.

Additionally, the bills would ask the secretary of veterans affairs to recognize schools that offer "superior services" to former military members and require the Department of Veterans Affairs to create a "comprehensive policy on providing education information to veterans."

Curtis L. Coy, deputy under secretary for economic opportunity in the Department of Veterans Affairs, said that while the organization supports the recognition of schools that serve veterans, he feels the bills need new criteria to evaluate colleges. Specifically, he expressed doubts about judging schools on their graduation rates.

Still, the bills have the support of many veterans advocates as well as academic officials. Allen L. Sessoms, president of the University of the District of Columbia, for example, said the bills are "especially important at a time when unemployment among veterans is particularly high," the Chronicle reports.

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