Since its inception in 1944, the G.I. Bill has offered U.S. veterans a transition from military to civilian life by providing money to pay for college education. Though the terms of the GI Bill have changed several times in those 70 years, it still is one of the biggest recruiting tools the military has – especially since the advent of the all-volunteer force in 1973.
The Post-9-11 GI Bill, which took effect in 2009, is the most generous benefits package yet offered, this year paying out an average of $1,430 per month. Since 2009, more than 1 million veterans or their family members have taken advantage of the new GI Bill, at a cost to the government of $35 million.
Because of a perception that many veterans do not graduate after starting school, the Student Veterans of America, a veterans advocacy organization, conducted a survey to find out how many vets do complete their education. They, like the American taxpayers, have a right to know if this money is being used in a judicious manner.
According to the study, that is the case. The SVA, with assistance from the Veterans Affairs Department and the National Student Clearinghouse, found that 51.7 percent of student veterans earned a degree or some type of higher education certificate. While this is lower than the 56 percent of students who enroll out of high school, it is higher than the non-veteran, non-traditional students whose graduation rate is around 43 percent.
Other findings include that veterans complete their bachelor’s degree requirements in four to six years, and an associate degree program within four – both are in similar time frames to the traditional college student. One reason for veterans’ increased time earning a degree is most have families and many have service-related disabilities, the study found.
“Americans have invested substantial dollars in giving our veterans an opportunity to further their education and this report shows many positive signs that they are doing just that,” SVA President Wayne Robinson said of the study’s results. “The majority of student veterans accessing their GI Bill benefits are completing degrees and showing unparalleled determination to do so.”
The GI Bill has long been an avenue to success for Americans. Many young people choose the military immediately following high school graduation because they are unable to afford college at that time. Many of these men and women have served combat tours – some more than one – in some of the most dangerous places on earth. Their transition from military back to civilian life can sometimes be rocky.
The GI Bill aids in that transition. It is an investment in good people.