Both the House and the Senate passed an expansion to the Post-9/11 GI Bill last week, which will go into effect next academic year. The new bill will increase benefits for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans seeking higher education.
The biggest change for veterans attending Georgetown is a new national standardized cap on tuition money available per semester, according to Erik Brine (GRD), president of the Georgetown University Student Veterans Association. Under the old GI Bill, each state set a maximum on tuition benefits for veterans relative to the highest public institution price, which was about $265 per credit hour or about $8000 per 30-credit year in Washington, D.C. Because the tuition cost at the University of the District of Columbia was low relative to other state schools, this made attending college in D.C. comparatively more expensive for veterans, Brine said.
Due to the expansion, the standard will now be set at $17,500 per year nationwide. The cap will go up 5 percent each year until 2020. Georgetown has about 250 veterans receiving GI Bill money, who will all receive increased government funding starting next academic year. According to Brine, however, there may be close to 700 or 800 veterans enrolled at the university who are not currently using GI Bill funds.
Colby Howard (SFS ’12), vice president of GUSVA, said that the new cap will make Georgetown more affordable for veterans applying to college.
“This bill will make Georgetown attractive, and it will put Georgetown on the front page and on the short list of every veteran applying to college,” he said. “It’s a win-win for the school and for the student.”
According to Brine, Georgetown’s compensation to veterans varies greatly between its different graduate programs; the new cap should level the money granted.
While the bill does not address the Yellow Ribbon Program, which aims to fill any tuitions gaps left by GI Bill funding and other forms financial aid, Brine hopes that increased government funding will allow the university to better help veterans in meeting tuition needs through the Yellow Ribbon Program. The program provides additional aid to veterans on a first come, first serve basis, a vague policy that was not further clarified in the new bill, according to Brine.
The bill also stipulates that veterans receive a housing allowance relative to the number of credits they are taking, rather than the flat rate that was given as part of the old bill. With increased federal funding for veterans, GUSVA hopes that the university will also channel some of its resources to other veteran support services.
“If Georgetown does not have to provide as much directly to tuition . they can reallocate that money,” Howard said.
GUSVA has been pushing for a veteran’s resources center and a student veteran administrator to manage and help support veterans at Georgetown, according to Brine. The group played a role in shaping the new legislation. The national Student Veterans Association worked with Congress on the bill expansion, according to David Shearman (SFS ’11), social media coordinator for GUSVA.
Brine, Howard and Margo Ellis (GRD ’11), director of communications for GUSVA, were among about 20 student veterans in attendance when Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) signed the bill Friday.