G.I. Bill Would Increase Federal College Funding for Veterans

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For newly graduated UC Berkeley anthropology major Brannely Turpen, the initial intimidation of transitioning from the Marine Corps to student life diminished as Turpen adjusted to UC Berkeley.

But while Turpen said he felt at home on campus, his military benefits did not provide him with enough money to pay for a UC Berkeley education.

However, future college-bound student veterans may have their financial burdens alleviated if Congress passes a new G.I. bill that would increase college funding for U.S. military veterans.

Last Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a new G.I. bill that would give post-9/11 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans more opportunities for an affordable education. The bill is currently being debated in the Senate.

If passed, the new G.I. bill would increase the amount of time veterans can receive college education funding from two to four academic years. Each veteran would receive enough money to cover the cost of tuition at any four-year public university in his or her home state, although veterans would be able to use that money to pay for

tuition at any university, including private schools.

Additionally, veterans would receive a monthly stipend based on living costs for the area, said UC Berkeley's Director of Federal Relations Kathleen Moazed, who is currently in Washington, D.C. watching the bill's developments.

"This is crucial because there is a much greater housing cost in the Berkeley (and) San Francisco Bay Area," Moazed said. "As the cost of living has gone up, the educational benefits have not kept up the pace."

Total resident undergraduate student costs at UC Berkeley for the 2008-09 school year are projected to be about $26,600, according to the campus' admissions office.

The new bill would also enable veterans to transfer their educational benefits to their spouse or children.

The current G.I. bill, which provides student veterans with about $10,000 a year for all expenses, is not sufficient to cover tuition at four-year research universities such as UC Berkeley, said Patrick Campbell, the legislative director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, as well as a former ASUC president.

Campbell said the high cost of college tuition has led many veterans to attend community colleges because they are cheaper. Campbell said that 90 percent of all veterans who use the G.I. bill attend community colleges, while only 38 percent of civilians do.

"With the new G.I. bill a veteran can view a Berkeley education as a full time job," he said. "This is the way we rewarded the service of World War II veterans, and the way veterans should be rewarded today."

Michael Cooper, head of Veterans Services at UC Berkeley's Office of the Registrar, said that currently only about half of the campus' veteran students claim their military benefits because the benefits are considered "outside aid" and may actually decrease a veteran's total financial aid package.

Cooper works closely with veterans on campus to ensure that those who ask for military benefits receive them promptly.

Since fall 2007, an agreement between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the leaders of the UC, CSU and community college systems has led to an increase in outreach programs for veteran students on California college campuses. It also led to the increased focus on veteran students as a part of the Transfer, Student Parent and Re-entry Center on campus.

Each semester, the campus holds a veterans' forum to educate student veterans about services available to them. Since fall 2007, veterans have also been offered priority enrollment for their courses.

Veterans services staff said many veterans on campus bring a unique experience that should be supported through the new G.I. bill.

"The G.I. bill has been one of the most successful programs the government has ever implemented," Moazed said.

Tags: GI BILL


Contact Hadas Goshen at [email protected]



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