President Obama visited George Mason University yesterday morning to mark the start of a new GI Bill with expanded higher education benefits for post-9/11 veterans. The law’s new programs, expected to provide $78 billion in assistance over the next decade, issued their first payments to colleges on August 1st.
In his address to some 350 veterans, Obama confirmed his obligation to America’s servicemen and women. “We owe a debt to all who serve,” said President Obama. “And when we repay that debt to those bravest Americans among us, then we are investing in our future — not just their future, but also the future of our own country.”
Among other new benefits, post-9/11 veterans will be able to attend any in-state public university at no cost. “You pick the school, we’ll help pick up the bill,” said Obama about the new law. Students will also receive a monthly housing allowance and annual textbook allowance (up to $1,000).
To be eligible for the full higher education benefit, one must have served for at least 90 aggregate days (or 30 consecutive days) since 9/10/2001. Benefits may be used for up to 15 years since the last date of discharge from military service. In addition to paying tuition and fees directly to the school, the new GI Bill will also pay a monthly housing stipend and a yearly books and supplies stipend directly to the individual.
If a school voluntarily enters the Yellow Ribbon Program, students may also have additional charges not covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill paid for by his or her university. The Department of Veteran Affairs will match each additional dollar paid by the school.