GI Bill May Impact Veteran Enrollment At Four Year Colleges

By Staff
August 29, 2009

A new report released from the American Council of Education concludes that veterans who benefit from the new GI Bill may be more likely to attend four-year institutions and enroll in college full-time.

"Veterans and service members who are eligible for the new GI Bill will receive more generous benefits that will broaden the choices they have when pursuing higher education," said Alexandra Walton Radford, who authored the report, in a statement. "While these students have previously been concentrated at public two-year colleges, these new benefits may encourage them to seek entry into more expensive colleges, particularly if those institutions demonstrate responsiveness to their needs."

The new GI Bill, which went into effect on August 1, provides significant financial aid to qualifying veterans so that they can attend the most expensive public college in their state. The recently-launched Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program allows participating institutions to pledge funds which are matched dollar-for-dollar by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which can be used to pay for out-of-state public colleges, private institutions or graduate programs.

The report notes that in 2007-8, veterans and active-service military members made up a mere 4 percent of undergraduates enrolled in colleges and universities throughout the United States. The vast majority of that group--43 percent--attended community colleges. Meanwhile, 21 percent attended public four-year colleges, 13 percent attended private four-year colleges, 12 percent attended for-profit schools and the rest attended more than one type of institution.

Yet those numbers are likely to change. The Associated Press [from an article originally located at] reports that nearly half a million veterans are expected to enroll in colleges and universities this year as a result of the new GI Bill. The report argues that veterans who enroll full-time--who in 2007-8 made up only about 23 percent of veterans and active-service military members attending college--are likely to increase as well.

Nevertheless, the report notes that cost may not have been the only consideration of where veterans went to college prior to the new GI Bill. Other factors, such as whether an institution awards credit for military service, may have played a role as well.

Jim Selbe, assistant vice president of lifelong learning at ACE, elaborated on why so many veterans and military members may have opted for community colleges. "From my own experience as a military student, it wasn't just the cost and convenience that they found appealing," he said in Inside Higher Ed. "It's that, at community colleges, they were much more likely to encounter other adult learners and get more attention. . . . This is a moment of opportunity for the four-year colleges to learn from the community colleges what is so compelling about them to military undergraduates."

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