G.I. Bill: boom or bust for veterans?

Posted by John Kanelis on

The PBS NewsHour has broadcast a news report that very well could make you angry, especially if you are a veteran or are the loved one of a veteran seeking to get a good college education.

Count me as a veteran who’s concerned by the content of this report, which you can watch below:

The NewsHour (which is broadcast at 6 p.m. Monday through Friday on Panhandle PBS) sent Aaron Glantz of the Center for Investigative Reporting to hunt down reports of G.I. Bill money benefiting for-profit schools of higher education more than the veterans the money is intended to help.

Back in the old days, when I was a young veterans returning home from the Vietnam War, I applied for G.I. Bill benefits. I enrolled at a college in my hometown of Portland, Ore., and received a monthly stipend from the Veterans Administration to help pay for my education. It seemed at the time to be a fairly uncomplicated process. My only obligation was to remain a student in good standing; if I did so, the money would pay for my education.

Glantz looked at today’s G.I. Bill, and the relationship that these for-profit schools have with it. He looked mostly at the online school, the University of Phoenix.

Veterans are getting the money and enrolling at these schools, but their education isn’t measuring up to what is being promised to them. One veteran, a Navy retiree named David Pace, was told he could obtain his bachelor’s degree in 18 months under the G.I. Bill-financed education at the University of Phoenix. It took him three years and he’s still doing the same blue-collar work he was doing when he retired from the Navy.

Pace told the NewsHour he regrets enrolling under the G.I. Bill. He calls it a waste of money and time.

University of Phoenix officials interviewed by the NewsHour, naturally, defend their school’s participation in the G.I. Bill.

This is a head-scratcher for me. The G.I. Bill was enacted after World War II as a method for helping returning veterans — more than 15 million of them — who had just saved the world from tyranny. The G.I. Bill’s intent was to help them transition to civilian life and to pay them back for their service by financing their college education.

The bill was weakened somewhat over the years and then it was reformed in 2008. The NewsHour report, though, suggests strongly that for-profit schools might be getting more for the money than the veterans.

Take a look at the news report that’s now posted online. I’ll look at it again. First, I have to cool off.

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