Veterans seeking to better themselves got a big boost from Congress recently when legislation was unanimously approved to restore education and tuition benefits for those who have been affected by a school closure.
Known as the “Forever GI Bill,” it comes in direct response to the recent closures of ITT Tech and Corinthian College as well as many others, which worked hard to recruit students from the military. The colleges were accused of preying on veterans and low-income students, overstating promises about landing good jobs after graduation. But many students never finished their studies at these types of colleges, and the fallout was part of a larger overall problem that indicated 35% of all federal student loan defaults came from for-profit colleges.
In response to perceived unethical practices, both ITT Tech and Corinthian shut down dozens of campuses as a result of a larger crackdown on for profit schools by the Obama administration. The action impacted thousands of students nationwide.
After the closures, many students discovered that their credits would not transfer to other schools and colleges. Although students who borrowed on federal loans to attend ITT Tech or Corinthian are able to apply to have their debts erased, until now, veterans were not able to reuse their GI Bill benefits.
Prior to passage of the bill, the Post 9/11 GI Bill program covered cost of tuition for up to 36 months, some housing costs and up to $1,000 a year for books. The number of months of benefits depends on how many years a veteran served. Since 2009, more than 1 million veterans have taken advantage of the program. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 79% of veterans who enrolled in a higher education program in 2016 were beneficiaries from the Post 9/11 GI Bill program.
Passage of the bill restores benefits to veterans who have been affected by a school closure and applies to service members who attended a postsecondary institution that closed after January 2015. According to the Congressional Budget Office, $50 million will go toward restoring benefits to thousands of veterans next year, allowing them to use the benefit at a different school.
The bill also ends the 15-year limit on GI Bill benefits, making them available for life but only for service members who were discharged on or after January 1, 2013. This also makes it easier and more convenient for veterans to use the benefits later in life. In addition, the bill makes some reservists and Purple Heart recipients after September 11, 2001 to be eligible for benefits regardless of how long they served and makes additional scholarships available for veterans pursuing degrees in science, technology, math or engineering, also known as STEM programs. It is expected to cost more than $3 billion over 10 years.
The bill is headed to President Trump, and he is expected to sign the legislation into law in the near future.