Virginia's two U.S. senators announced a breakthrough agreement Thursday on a new GI Bill to underwrite college costs for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.Thanks Senators. And do a favor for Skippy and slap Dr. Chu around some when you get the chance.
The multibillion-dollar deal dramatically increases the proposal's chances of passage this year.
"This is a landmark piece of legislation," said Sen. John Warner, a senior Republican who joined with Sen. Jim Webb, a freshman Democrat, in unveiling the proposal on the Senate floor.
The bill unveiled Thursday is an outgrowth of legislation Webb introduced last year on his first day in the Senate. It would provide for government payment of in-state tuition plus a monthly expense allowance for vets attending publicly supported colleges.
Veterans attending private colleges would be eligible for tuition aid equal to the cost of the most expensive publicly supported school in their states. The private schools could enroll in a cost-sharing plan to help the vets pay higher tuitions, with the government providing $1 of additional aid for every $1 provided by the school.
"This bill challenges the academic community to step up and join the all-volunteer force," Warner said. U.S. campuses enjoy a tradition of academic freedom in large part thanks to the sacrifices of service members, he suggested.
The new bill's subsidies would be a dramatic boost from the aid provided to veterans under the existing GI Bill, which was enacted in the 1980s. The benefits would be slightly less generous than those extended to World War II-era veterans like Warner, however.
The current GI bill provides vets with an average of $6,000 a year in college aid, Webb said. The World War II-era bill covered all tuition costs at public and private colleges, and provided a monthly cost-of-living stipend as well.
Warner said he almost certainly would not have been able to obtain his undergraduate degree at Washington and Lee University or his law degree at the University of Virginia without the assistance of the original GI bill. The 81-year-old Republican joined the Navy and served in the final months of World War II, then returned to duty as a Marine Corps reservist during the Korean War.
Webb got his undergraduate degree at government expense at the U.S. Naval Academy. He attended law school at Georgetown University on the GI Bill after serving as a Marine platoon leader in Vietnam.
Monday, March 03, 2008
With every day's news reminding him how wrong he has been about Iraq since he took the Junior Senator's seat for Virginia, it is good to see Sen. Webb (D-VA) teaming up with his fellow Virginian to do something constructive with his energy. An update on the new G.I. Bill.