Senate passes bill to boost funds

Coralie Carlson

Dave Cullen graduated two years ago with a sociology degree from the University, thanks in part to the Montgomery GI Bill.
Now a recruiter for the National Guard, Cullen said the majority of his recruits join the armed forces to earn money for school.
“It’s one weekend a month and pays for college,” he said.
And the U.S. Senate wants to up the ante. Senators passed a bill on Wednesday that would increase the benefits by about $70 a month and let spouses and children of veterans use the scholarship. Educational provisions in the bill would be worth $4.6 billion over six years.
With a vote of 91 to 8, the bill — dubbed the Soldiers’, Sailors’, Airmen’s, and Marines’ Bill of Rights Act of 1999 — is intended to boost enlistment incentives to ease the personnel crunches the military experienced last year.
But the White House opposed the bill, which includes wage and pension increases, because the entire package would cost $11.6 million more than President Clinton’s proposal. Before it can reach the president, however, the U.S. House of Representatives needs to pass a companion bill, which doesn’t exist yet.
The 55-year-old GI Bill helped former President George Bush attend Yale and Gov. Jesse Ventura attend North Hennepin Community College for one year.
The bill presently offers $528 a month to three-year veterans and $429 a month to two-year veterans. The Senate bill would bump those numbers to $600 and $488 respectively. As it stands, many recruits can’t afford school even with the Montgomery GI Bill.
The legislation also covers the cost of courses to prepare for college and graduate school, and removes a $1,200 first-year pay deduction for those planning to use the GI Bill.
Although many people join the military to get money for college, Cullen said it’s common for recruits to avoid going to school afterward and forgo the cash.
In January, the Commission on Servicemembers and Veterans Transition Assistance reported the same finding, explaining that less than half of veterans who sign up for the GI Bill go to college. The commission attributed this effect partly to skyrocketing tuition costs.
The National Guard provided more than enough money for Cullen to get through school because the guard is funded through the federal and state governments. But other programs, like the Army reserves, would not cover a University education, he said.
Lt. Col. Randall Banky, professor of military science, said most of the students in the ROTC program already receive full scholarships from the school, so they don’t rely as heavily on military benefits. However, he said, the GI Bill does help veterans pay for some non-tuition costs.