New GI Bill makes college affordable for veterans

University Veteran Services expects increase in applications for veteran student aid.

Amy Durmaskin

Each year student veterans apply for educational aid, and each year some struggle to stretch their finances to cover all the expenses an average student incurs. But the new Chapter 33 Post- 9/11 GI Bill , which went into effect Aug. 1, means student veterans who served on active duty after Sept. 11, 2001 will not have to stretch their finances quite as far. âÄúItâÄôs possible to live off the old GI Bill, but itâÄôs tough,âÄù student veteran and global studies sophomore Dan Ochs said. âÄúIt didnâÄôt take into account all the other student costs. ItâÄôs making it possible for me to be a student, and be a student full time.âÄù Under the previous Montgomery GI Bill , veterans applying for educational financial aid could pay $1,200 into an Army College Fund while in the service. The fund then paid the veteran a flat monthly stipend of $1,200 for the duration of the veteranâÄôs education. The monthly stipend was expected to cover tuition, books and living expenses, with no regard to differing tuition prices, inflation or the amount of active duty the recipient served. The new GI Bill provides full tuition up to the highest in-state tuition cost, up to $1,000 for books and a living stipend based on rates within the schoolâÄôs zip code. The benefits are scaled by the amount of service the veteran has served, with a minimum of 90 consecutive days of active duty needed to fully qualify. Provisions from the bill last three to four years and do not require veterans to pay into the Army College Fund. Officials at University Veterans Services , which helps veterans navigate student life, said they are seeing more students motivated by the change in benefits enter their office for guidance this fall. While there were approximately 633 student veterans university-wide who used UVSâÄô resources last year, Mary Koskan , director of One Stop Student Services , said she anticipates at least a 25 percent increase in traffic due to the new GI Bill. Carin Anderson , senior veterans coordinator for UVS, speculated that some students may have waited to apply for aid in hopes that this bill would make college a more affordable reality. Officials at UVS hoped to ease the âÄústress and panicâÄù of securing financial aid by holding two meetings dealing with the bill and hosting numerous new student veteran orientations in late August and early September. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is experiencing a backlog from the unexpected rise in aid demand. As a result, Anderson said she expects some students will experience a delay in receiving their aid. Students can expedite payment receipts by turning in paperwork as early as possible, Anderson said. To relieve some of the financial pressure on veterans awaiting aid, the University of Minnesota has postponed veteran tuition deadlines until the end of the semester. Broadcast journalism senior Chris Holbrook , a U.S. Air Force veteran and intern for UVS, said he has noticed a sharp influx of applications for veteran education aid, but he thinks there are even more veterans who qualify for assistance but have yet to apply. âÄúIf there are veterans on campus out there who think they might be at all eligible that havenâÄôt used their aid, they should definitely come in and see us,âÄù he said. As one of many University veterans who will benefit from the Chapter 33 Post-9/11 GI Bill , Ochs said he is looking forward to getting the full college experience. âÄúThis is my last chance [for college]. I have an opportunity to make something happen,âÄù he said. âÄúItâÄôs go time.âÄù