Expert Commentary

Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 (Post-9/11 GI Bill): Primer and Issues

2011 Congressional Research Service report surveying new requirements and details of the GI Bill.


Educational aid to American military veterans has produced a storied history since the World War II generation, and the GI Bill has often been linked to the country’s economic progress and advancement. But the benefits and design of the program have varied significantly over the decades. Moreover, it has not always been easy for veterans to capitalize on the benefits or navigate the bureaucracy, as the Washington Post has reported. And as the Chronicle of Higher Education notes in its 2012-13 series “Out of Uniform,” the experiences and outcomes for veterans are diverse.

Since Congress introduced the post-9/11 GI Bill in 2008, more than 950,000 veterans have taken advantage of educational programs, receiving an average reimbursement of $13,985 over fiscal years 2009-11. Participation levels in educational assistance programs for veterans are the highest they have been since 1984. The 2008 bill expands access to educational opportunities for veterans serving after Sept. 10, 2001, providing funding for state colleges and universities, training programs and stipends for housing and books. The stated intention of the bill is to help meet military recruiting goals, improve retention rates and ensure that educational benefits are comprehensive. The post-9/11 GI Bill has been adjusted in Congress several times since 2008 to extend benefits to those in active service in the National Guard, include a $1,000 book stipend, remove tuition caps for state-operated colleges and qualify several vocational and certification options for tuition payments.

A 2012 Congressional Research Service report, “The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 (Post-9/11 GI Bill): Primer and Issues” (PDF) describes the eligibility requirements, benefit availability and benefit payments detailed in the legislation:

Key elements include:

  • The GI Bill provides educational assistance for up to 36 months or its equivalent in part-time study formembers or veterans of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. Veterans must have served for at least 90 days within the last 15 years (after Sept. 10, 2001).
  • In addition to undergraduate and graduate programs at both public and private universities, veterans can receive allowances for SAT, GRE, GMAT or LSAT test-preparatory courses; licensing or certification tests for a predetermined vocation; or full-time apprentice programs.
  • Members of the armed forces can receive up to $18,077 for a private or foreign university and $1,000 toward books and other educational materials. At public universities, veterans are reimbursed for the “actual net cost of in-state tuition and fees.”
  • Benefits can be transferred to a child or a spouse as long as the armed forces member serves or agrees to serve at least 10 years.
  • Fiscal year 2011 participation in the post-9/11 GI Bill exceeded the annual participation in all of the other GI Bills since 1984.

Despite high participation rates and educational opportunities for veterans, there is some concern over the quality of educational programs subsidized. The Veterans Administration is collecting data on veterans enrolled in educational programs to better assess the quality of programs. With some exceptions, veterans may not receive benefits for enrollment in courses in which more than 85% of students receive some sort of assistance from the VA. The purpose is to limit educational institutions that exist solely to profit from the GI Bill.

A 2010 research brief from the RAND Corporation, “How Military Veterans Are Using the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Adapting to Life in College” (PDF), also provides a useful overview of the experience of recent veterans.

Tags: veterans, higher education

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