Congress first passed the Post 9/11 GI Bill in 2008, offering the most expansive plan for veterans' educational benefits since the original GI Bill was passed in 1944. The Veterans Administration anticipates that nearly half a million veterans will use their newly expanded GI Bill benefits in 2010.
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New GI Bill Set to Expand Veterans' Benefits Starting August 2009

When the new Post 9/11 GI Bill becomes effective on Aug. 1, the overall result will be a greatly enhanced government program to support veterans in pursuit of higher education goals.

But there are some issues, for some veterans, in some states.

Congress first passed the Post 9/11 GI Bill in 2008, offering the most expansive plan for veteran education benefits since the original GI Bill was passed in 1944. The Veterans Administration anticipates that nearly half a million veterans will use their newly expanded GI Bill benefits in 2010.

This new GI Bill is designed to increase both educational options and financial support available to veterans and service members. There are, however, some complications that make it look as if just the opposite may be taking place.

Because, depending on where service members and veterans attend college, some veterans will be able to use their new GI Bill benefits to receive full tuition support... and others will receive little or even no financial support from their GI Bill at all.


The reason for this discrepancy is based on the government's new GI Bill disbursement formula, as well as a decision by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The new GI Bill covers full in-state undergraduate tuition and fees at any public college, replacing the plan under the old GI Bill, which provided an equal monthly stipend regardless of the location of the college or school.

The expansive goal of the new GI Bill was to help veterans attend pricier private schools. Thus, the new GI Bill supports veterans with an amount equal to the tuition at the most expensive public college in that state.


But what about veterans attending private colleges in states with low public university tuitions?

For veterans attending private colleges in states where public universities charge little or no tuition at all, the new GI Bill does not offer a good deal more for veterans - in fact, it's practically a deal killer.


The new GI Bill offers maximum support for veterans attending college in states like New Hampshire, New York and Texas; fair support for those attending college in states like Ohio; little support for veterans who choose colleges in Massachusetts; and no financial support for veterans who choose private institutions in the state of California, where public university tuition remains low or nonexistent.

Here are some examples of how the Post 9/11 GI Bill adds up for veterans in various states.

Veterans applying their new GI Bill to New Hampshire colleges might get a hefty $25,000 from the government each year. At Dartmouth, for example, veterans may receive an entire college education free, thanks to the expansive new GI Bill plus an additional grant from this Ivy League school.

In Massachusetts, the GI Bill tuition benefit is only about $2,200 a year. Still, many colleges in Massachusetts may cost up to $25,000 each year - just as much as New Hampshire colleges.

For veterans attending private school in Texas, the new GI Bill benefit could be up to $20,000 a semester.

But veterans who use the new GI Bill to attend school in California will be shocked to learn that there is no tuition support available for them at all.


It seems that the new GI Bill inadvertently offers no support at all for veterans who attend private colleges or schools in California.

In California, the state constitution prohibits public universities from charging tuition. Instead, public universities charge "fees" of several thousand dollars per year - but no tuition. Had the Department of Veterans Affairs combined tuition and fees for determining new GI Bill reimbursement levels, the total California benefit would have been around $13,000 per year. But that has not been the case so far.


About 80 percent of veterans using the new GI Bill are planning to attend public institutions, and will benefit greatly from the expanded support levels of the new GI Bill.

If you are part of the 20 percent of veterans who are planning to attend private colleges, graduate schools, and for-profit institutions, you may be bewildered by what seems like a reduction in educational benefits available from your supposedly new and better GI Bill.

To determine your benefits, look into the tuition benefits available for your state before you choose your college.

And keep in mind that the new GI Bill benefits - including separate stipends for housing and books - are available to service members after three years of active duty, with GI Bill benefits now transferable to family members.


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