04.02.08


Schumer: Thousands Of Returning Upstate Ny Soldiers Will Be Hard-Pressed To Afford College Education - Senator To Push New Gi Bill That Greatly Expands Financial Education Assistance For Returning Veterans

Current GI Bill isn't Equipped to Handle Wave of Young Returning Soldiers Leaving them Unable to Meet Rising College Costs Averaging Over $17,000 at a Public Institution in NYS - Only 15% of all those Currently Deployed Hold a Bachelor's Degree Number of Younger Vets Across Upstate NY is Set to Soar: Currently there are 84,000 Vets in the Capital Region, over 74,000 in CNY, over over 146,000 in the HV, over 53,000 in the N. Country, over 94,000 in the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region,

With thousands of Upstate New York residents fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan set to return home, today U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer warned that the current GI Bill, intended to help returning veterans afford and attend college, is woefully outdated and has not kept up with the skyrocketing costs of education. The GI Bill benefits offered to today's service members haven't undergone an expansive overhaul since they were originally developed in World War II. Since then, there have been only minimal updates, and soldiers from Upstate New York currently rely on the Montgomery version of the GI Bill, which was developed during peacetime, not wartime. Without being updated to reflect the rising cost of college tuition and books, the current law is inadequate to serve the rising number of young veterans returning home during a time of war.

 

Schumer today announced a bipartisan plan to push a new GI Bill introduced by Senator Jim Webb (DVA) that will greatly expand benefits for service members seeking to attend college or take advantage of other educational opportunities. The proposed benefits include increased financial assistance for education programs, larger stipends for living costs and educational expenses like books. According to Department of Defense January 2008 deployment statistics, over 65% of enlisted and officers currently deployed are under the age of 30, and only 15% of all those deployed hold a bachelor's degree. While almost 80% of officers currently deployed have a bachelor's degree or higher, only 4% of enlisted soldiers, making up the vast majority of those deployed, have obtained a college diploma. Many reports have revealed that service members would like to pursue advanced education and training to maintain competiveness in today's economy.

 

"With thousands of Upstate New York soldiers returning home after valiantly serving our country, the last thing we should do is nickel and dime them when it comes to financially helping them receive a college degree," said Senator Schumer. "With an impending wave of returning service members moving back to our state who are hungry for a college or other advanced degree, the least we can do is make sure that they receive the financial assistance to afford tuition, housing, and books."

 

During World War II, the first G.I. Bill was created to offer educational assistance for returning students, with an estimated 7.8 million veterans taking advantage of the offered benefits. Over the last several decades, new versions of the G.I. Bill have been passed by Congress but the benefits awarded have never been as expansive as the nation's original G.I. Bill.

 

Today, returning service members across Upstate New York rely on the Montgomery version of the G.I Bill, which was designed for peacetime, not wartime. The Montgomery version has failed to keep pace with the rising cost of college tuition and educatedrelated expenses across New York State, and it's estimated that the maximum a veteran can receive under the current program is approximately $1,100 per month, or $38,000 over four years-well under the cost of attending a 4year private school in Upstate NY, and below the combined costs of tuition, housing and educational materials at both private and public schools across the state.

 

The current G.I. Bill only provides financial assistance for tuition expenses. However, the costs of attending college go well beyond just tuition, including books, supplies, lab fees and other academic fees, transportation, and housing expenses, often doubling the costs of tuition alone. In New York State, the average price of attending a 4 -year public college in New York is $17,630 per year ($70,520 over 4 years) and a 4year private college in New York is $34,440 per year ($137,760 over 4 years). The price tag is even higher for veterans with families who have higher living expenses and must sacrifice oneincome so one parent can attend school full time.

 

In New York State, the number of young veterans seeking additional educational opportunities is expected to soar as the 9,200 New York soldiers and 1,300 reservists currently deployed return home.

 

With many U.S. troops having served two, three or four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, the time is long overdue to enact a new veterans educational program to expand on the World War II G.I. Bill. Under the current law, veterans have a short window of time in which to take advantage of an education benefit after serving, and with over six years already passed since 9/11, the time window is closing on many.

 

For Upstate New York, having an educated workforce is vital to ongoing economic development and luring new businesses to the region. It's estimated that the original G.I. Bill from WWII sparked economic growth and expansion for a whole generation of Americans. It's estimated that for every dollar invested in WWII, seven dollars were generated. Schumer and other Senators have argued that a new, overhauled G.I. Bill can spur the same economic results.

 

In addition, Schumer noted today that cost of funding the program, estimated at $2 billion a year, equals less than the required funding for one week of war in Iraq.

 

Today Schumer announced that he will be working with Senator Webb to pass the new G.I. Bill to greatly increase educational benefits to all members of the military who have served on active duty since September 11, 2001, including activated reservists and National Guards.

 

  • The bill provides for educational benefits to be paid in amounts linked to the amount of active duty served in the military after 9/11. Generally, veterans would receive some amount of assistance proportional to their service for 36 months, which equals for academic years. Veterans would still be eligible to receive any incentivebased supplemental educational assistance from their military branch for which they qualify.

 

  • Benefits provided under the bill would allow veterans pursuing an approved program of education to receive payments covering the established charges of their program, up to the cost of the most expensive instate public school, plus a monthly stipend equivalent to housing costs in their area. The bill would allow additional payments for tutorial assistance, as well as licensure and certification tests.

 

  • The bill would create a new program in which the government will agree to match, dollar for dollar, any voluntary additional contributions to veterans from institutions whose tuition is more expensive than the maximum educational assistance.

 

  • Finally, veterans would have up to fifteen years, compared to ten years under the Montgomery G.I. Bill after they leave active duty to use their educational assistance entitlement. Veterans would be barred from receiving concurrent assistance from this program and another similar program.

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