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Jonathan Dedios, a retired Marine and anthropology major at the University of Nevada, wasn't planning on going to college when he joined the military in 2000. "When I joined the military, my NCOs [non-commissioned officers] were very adamant about getting my GI Bill [benefits]," Dedios said. "Whether you want it or not, you're getting it. I'm very thankful for them making me get it. Education is very important. Saved me a lot of headache and worry about paying for school."
Today marks the 70th anniversary of the original GI Bill, which was created in 1944 to help veterans readjust after the end of WWII by providing home loans, education and vocational training. Since its inception, the GI Bill has gone through several changes — following the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the "Montgomery GI Bill" in 1984 and the Post-9/11 GI Bill in 2009 — in order to keep up with the economy and the cost of post-secondary education.
The original GI Bill in 1944 was designed to help veterans get on par with where they would have been had the war not happened. The bill, along with the similar bills following the Korean and Vietnam Wars and the Montgomery GI Bill in 1984, paid out a certain sum of money to veterans to be put toward higher education.
The monthly education benefit decreased only slightly between 1944 and 2009, but because of the increases in the costs of post-secondary education, the benefit covered a smaller percentage of tuition in later years.
Monthly education benefit given to veterans between 1944 and 2009
In 1944, the education benefit likely paid the full cost of tuition. Veterans were given $500 a year and $50 every month of school — tuition at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard were $450 and $500 respectively. However, by the 1990s, the GI Bill was only covering just above 50% of the costs of attending an average four-year public school.
Because GI Bill benefits covered less and less of the cost of post-secondary education at the turn of the new millenium and because more servicemen were heading into war, the Post-9/11 GI Bill was born. "There had been periodic increases to Montgomery GI Bill reimbursement, but it was not keeping pace with the rising costs of college," said Ryan Gallucci, deputy director of the National Veterans Service at the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW).
Instead of paying out certain amounts to veterans like with previous education benefits, the Post-9/11 GI Bill pays the cost of in-state tuition, $1000 for books and a living stipend (the benefit is indexed by length of service in the military). Students wishing to go to a private school get the amount they would have gotten in-state paid toward their private school tuition.
The GI Bill has helped over 1.2 million veterans and their families with $41 billion since 2009, and the percentage of veterans taking advantage of the GI Bill benefit has been increasing.
Number of beneficiaries
Korean War (1952–1965)
Vietnam War (1966–1989)
Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (1984–current)
Post-9/11 GI Bill (2009–current)
Note: Numbers for the Post-9/11 GI Bill include spouses and dependents of service members. Also, some service members are counted in multiple categories. Source: Department of Veterans Affairs
While the Post-9/11 GI Bill has been an improvement as it covers up to 100% of in-state tuition, there are still several aspects that are up for debate.
For one, many veterans are having trouble qualifying for in-state tuition because prior military obligations disqualified them of attaining a certain residency status required for in-state tuition, according to the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW). Some 24 states have laws granting residency exemptions to veterans and 8 have laws pending, but there are still 20 states where veterans could be denied in-state tuition due to certain residency requirements, according to the Student Veterans of America. This means that in 20 states, veterans might have to shoulder surplus costs that arise when they don't qualify for in-state tuition, since the GI Bill only covers in-state tuition cost. The Senate is currently reviewing a bill that would rectify this situation across the country.
But despite the issues that are still being debated, students like Dedios are still grateful for the GI Bill. With the help of first the Montgomery GI Bill and now the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Dedios is two and a half years from finishing his degree in anthropology. "Them being able to pay for my classes and me not having to worry about it, it's one less stress, and I can focus on going to school and doing well," Dedios said. "The GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill is something that every veteran should be able to use. I really hope that every service member out there has applied and at least has it in their back pocket."
Share your GI Bill experience
If you are a veteran, we'd like to hear from you. Use the form below to tell us about your experience with the GI Bill, whether or not you decided to use the benefit. We will feature some stories below and may follow up wth you for future stories.
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Interactive: Veterans share about their experiences with the GI Bill