By Seth Littrell
Some of Eastern’s 858 student veterans and dependents using G.I. Bill assistance may have to prepare for some changes to the ways they pay for school. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) has made several changes to the Post 9-11 G.I. Bill recently that could prove challenging for some students, but beneficial for others.
The biggest change Eastern veterans face is the elimination of break pay. Break pay was money granted to students who wanted assistance between semesters. Lt. Col. Brett Morris, associate director of veteran affairs, said break pay has been stopped because some students wound up running short on funds toward the end of the semester.
“That means if you’re counting on that money to live on, you’re going to have to plan ahead a little bit more,” Morris said.
Another change the VA made is to do away with the state cap for money available to post 9-11 veterans at universities.
“The reason they got rid of the state caps was that it was a nightmare for the VA to manage 50 different state caps,” Morris said.
In place of state caps, public schools such as Eastern are offering veterans the same financial aid they offer in-state students. However, for out-of-state vets, this allowance may not be enough. To remedy this, Eastern will now use state House Bill 425, which will allow the university to offer in-state tuition to post 9-11 vets from out of state.
A national cap of $17,500 has been put on private schools as well. Morris said he thinks the national cap may result in more vets choosing to continue their education at public schools such as Eastern.
In addition to these changes, veterans going to school exclusively online may now draw a stipend to help cover housing costs.
Morris said these changes might have an effect on how some veteran students manage their money for college, but overall he expects little to change as far as the students using the bill are concerned.
“It could have been negative for our out-of-state students, but we’ve taken care of that by adopting the house bill, so really, it’s not going to affect them in a negative fashion,” Morris said. “Obviously, the elimination of break pay is the most significant for the majority of the students. And for the ones [students] online, it’s going to be a positive because they’re going to start drawing something where it was absolutely nothing before.”
Eastern graduated 109 student veterans last year, and the number of veterans on campus is up approximately 30 percent compared to fall 2010.