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The Modern GI Bill: Empowering Veterans through Education and Policy

September 07, 2018
For nearly 75 years, the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944, more commonly known as the GI Bill, has provided grants for veterans to attend college or a vocational school and take out low-interest loans to start their own businesses. However, modernization has been made to the GI Bill, with the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008—known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill—and the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, or the Forever GI Bill to allow the program to adapt to the 21st Century.  These two modern bills have created more opportunities for veterans to continue their education after they finish their military service, allowing more students to attend higher education programs.

GI Bill spending is beneficial for the nation’s economy. Early reports indicate that there is a return of $8 for every $1 spent on Post 9/11 GI Bill programs.[1] This indicates that the funds spent on this program are not merely another government expenditure, but an investment in the future for both these individuals but for the American economy.

In the 2015 Veteran Economic Opportunity Report, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) studied the impact of government programs, most specifically the Post 9/11 GI Bill, on the status of veterans. Findings indicated that veterans were pursuing higher education at nearly the same rate as the general population—with 48% of veterans completing degree programs—compared to 49% of traditional Beginning Postsecondary Students.[2] These degree programs have led to approximately a 3% increase in college enrollment nationwide. Seven out of every ten veterans who have enrolled in a post-secondary program are either currently working on or finishing their degree.[3] The Post 9/11 GI Bill had greatly streamlined the process of receiving their GI Bill funding and in turn, made it significantly easier to pay both the veterans and the schools directly for their respective needs.

Image: GAO Analysis of VA Documents, Source: WikimediaImage: GAO Analysis of VA Documents, Source: Wikimedia

However, usage of the educational benefits dropped in 2017, even with the implementation of the Forever GI Bill. This was due to increased government regulations on for-profit “fly-by-night” schools, that rewarded credits for military service. These schools, due to their for-profit nature, could close at any time and leave students without a degree, and furthermore, wasting their benefits. In 2017, this was exactly what happened as schools such as, ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian College closed, leaving students in debt and without degrees. The number of students attending these for profit institutions went from over 155,000 in 2015 to less than 84,000 in 2017.[4] However, the Forever GI Bill has put in new safeguards to protect veterans who attend for profit colleges, by providing assistance to those who were attending these schools and could not finish their due to closure.[5] This safety net will ultimately help more veterans enroll in postsecondary education programs without the fear of the institution abandoning them.

In terms of unemployment and workforce, the Post 9/11 G.I Bill veterans were earning on average $4,030 more than their civilian equivalents annually.[6] However, those who were covered under the Pre-9/11 veterans are earning less than their counterparts from 2011 onwards; thus potentially showing the measurable economic impacts of the 2008 legislation. Looking deeper, female veterans who had taken advantage of the GI Bill were found to be earning over $5,000 more than female non-veterans in the same age group.[7]

These findings do not include any effects of the Forever GI Bill, as the data comes from before the new legislation was passed, but the Forever GI Bill will expand educational programming covered. This would allow older workers who have not used their GI educational benefits and may have been displaced by new technology and a lack of modern skills to attend programs that would make them competitive members of the modern workforce. The Forever GI Bill includes a pilot program, where alternative educational programming—such as coding “boot camps” can be covered by the government. This would incentivize veterans to gain valuable skills for the modern market in a way that conserves both money and time.[8]

The skills gap in America is preventing the American economy from operating at its full potential. A recent report stated that the economy added over 200,000 jobs in June 2018, and a total of 6.7 million job openings nationwide.[9] However, employers cannot fill them because of a lack of skilled workers. This led to an increase in the unemployment rate and a supply induced economic issue.[10] However, the programs offered in the Forever GI Bill can allow veterans to close this gap, as the new legislation has waived the prior 5-year limitation on using GI Bill education benefits—and develop the skills that they need to fill these highly skilled positions.[11] Over one fifth of veterans using the program are 35 years old or older, showing that both the need for updated skills and the economic benefits of expanding the GI Bill.[12]

This is especially true for STEM majors, as the bill allows for an extra year of funding if a student pursues an education within this field. There is a tremendous shortage for workers in these fields, yet only 14% of Post 9/11 GI Bill recipients have completed a STEM program. The new incentives in the Forever GI Bill will hopefully incentivize veterans to move into these fields and fill these much needed positions.

The modernization of the GI Bill has allowed for American veterans to better themselves in the long-term—by both updating timelines and benefits. These allow for veterans, who are already incredibly skilled in areas such as teamwork, leadership, and other integral assets, to take advantage of these programs and boost the nation’s economy as key contributors who can fill the void of skilled workers that industry desires.

Student Blog Disclaimer
  • The views expressed on the Student Blog are the author’s opinions and don’t necessarily represent the Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative’s strategies, recommendations, or opinions.

References

  [1] Howe, Miguel. “How the Post-9/11 GI Bill Will Help Veterans Close America’s Skills Gap.” The Hill. July 21, 2017. Accessed July 09, 2018. http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/the-military/342585-how-the-post-9-11-gi-bill-can-close-our-nations-skills-gap.

  [2] 2015 Veteran Economic Opportunity Report. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Washington, D.C., 2015. 10.

  [3] Cate, C.A., Lyon, J.S., Schmeling, J., & Bogue, B.Y. “National Veteran Education Success Tracker: A Report on the Academic Success of Student Veterans Using the Post-9/11 GI Bill.” Student Veterans of America, Washington, D.C. 2017.

  [4] Gross, Natalie. “Post-9/11 GI Bill Usage Dropped Sharply. Cause for Concern?” Reboot Camp. June 11, 2018. Accessed July 09, 2018. https://rebootcamp.militarytimes.com/news/education/2018/06/11/post-911-gi-bill-usage-dropped-sharply-cause-for-concern/.

  [5]Hess, Abigail. “5 New Educational Opportunities for Veterans Provided by the GI Bill.” CNBC. November 13, 2017. Accessed July 09, 2018. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/10/5-new-educational-opportunities-for-veterans-provided-by-the-gi-bill.html.

  [6]2015 Veteran Economic Opportunity Report. 11.

  [7]2015 Veteran Economic Opportunity Report. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Washington, D.C., 2015. 12.

  [8]Sattelmeyer, Sarah. “What Role Does Postsecondary Education Play in Veterans’ Economic Opportunity?” Pew. March 20, 2018. Accessed July 09, 2018. http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/articles/2018/03/20/what-role-does-postsecondary-education-play-in-veterans-economic-opportunity.

  [9] Needham, Vicki. “Economy Adds 213K Jobs in June, Unemployment Ticks up to 4 Percent.” The Hill. July 06, 2018. Accessed July 09, 2018. http://thehill.com/policy/finance/395755-june-jobs.

  [10]Cox, Jeff. “The U.S. Labor Shortage Is Reaching a Critical Point.” CNBC. July 05, 2018. Accessed July 09, 2018. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/07/05/the-us-labor-shortage-is-reaching-a-critical-point.html.

  [11]Roe, David. “H.R.3218 - Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017” U.S. Congress. July 13, 2017. Accessed July 24, 2018. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/3218/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22hr+3218%22%5D%7D&r=1

  [12]Mann, Elizabeth. “Transitioning from War to Workforce under the New ‘Forever’ GI Bill.” Brookings. July 28, 2017. Accessed July 09, 2018. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2017/07/28/transitioning-from-war-to-workforce-under-the-new-forever-gi-bill/.

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  • <h3>MapStats</h3><p> A feature of FedStats, MapStats allows users to search for <strong>state, county, city, congressional district, or Federal judicial district data</strong> (demographic, economic, and geographic).</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.fedstats.gov/mapstats/" target="_blank">http://www.fedstats.gov/mapstats/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>National Center for Education Statistics</h3><p><strong><img width="400" height="80" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/400/height/80/479_nces.rev.1407787656.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image479 lw_align_right" data-max-w="400" data-max-h="80"/>The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the U.S. and other nations.</strong> NCES is located within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences. NCES has an extensive Statistical Standards Program that consults and advises on methodological and statistical aspects involved in the design, collection, and analysis of data collections in the Center. To learn more about the NCES, <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/about/" target="_blank">click here</a>.</p><p> Quick link to NCES Data Tools: <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/datatools/index.asp?DataToolSectionID=4" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/datatools/index.asp?DataToolSectionID=4</a></p><p> Quick link to Quick Tables and Figures: <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/quicktables/" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/quicktables/</a></p><p> Quick link to NCES Fast Facts (Note: The primary purpose of the Fast Facts website is to provide users with concise information on a range of educational issues, from early childhood to adult learning.): <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/#</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Congressional Budget Office</h3><p><img width="180" height="180" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/180/380_cbo-logo.rev.1406822035.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image380 lw_align_right" data-max-w="180" data-max-h="180"/>Since its founding in 1974, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has produced independent analyses of budgetary and economic issues to support the Congressional budget process.</p><p> The agency is strictly nonpartisan and conducts objective, impartial analysis, which is evident in each of the dozens of reports and hundreds of cost estimates that its economists and policy analysts produce each year. CBO does not make policy recommendations, and each report and cost estimate discloses the agency’s assumptions and methodologies. <strong>CBO provides budgetary and economic information in a variety of ways and at various points in the legislative process.</strong> Products include baseline budget projections and economic forecasts, analysis of the President’s budget, cost estimates, analysis of federal mandates, working papers, and more.</p><p> Quick link to Products page: <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/about/our-products" target="_blank">http://www.cbo.gov/about/our-products</a></p><p> Quick link to Topics: <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/topics" target="_blank">http://www.cbo.gov/topics</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Internal Revenue Service: Tax Statistics</h3><p><img width="155" height="200" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/155/height/200/486_irs_logo.rev.1407789424.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image486 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/155/height/200/486_irs_logo.rev.1407789424.jpg 2x" data-max-w="463" data-max-h="596"/>Find statistics on business tax, individual tax, charitable and exempt organizations, IRS operations and budget, and income (SOI), as well as statistics by form, products, publications, papers, and other IRS data.</p><p> Quick link to <strong>Tax Statistics, where you will find a wide range of tables, articles, and data</strong> that describe and measure elements of the U.S. tax system: <a href="http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Stats-2" target="_blank">http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Stats-2</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>National Bureau of Economic Research (Public Use Data Archive)</h3><p><img width="180" height="43" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/43/478_nber.rev.1407530465.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image478 lw_align_right" data-max-w="329" data-max-h="79"/>Founded in 1920, the <strong>National Bureau of Economic Research</strong> is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of how the economy works. The NBER is committed to undertaking and disseminating unbiased economic research among public policymakers, business professionals, and the academic community.</p><p> Quick Link to <strong>Public Use Data Archive</strong>: <a href="http://www.nber.org/data/" target="_blank">http://www.nber.org/data/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED®)</h3><p><strong><img width="180" height="79" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/79/481_fred-logo.rev.1407788243.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image481 lw_align_right" data-max-w="222" data-max-h="97"/>An online database consisting of more than 72,000 economic data time series from 54 national, international, public, and private sources.</strong> FRED®, created and maintained by Research Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, goes far beyond simply providing data: It combines data with a powerful mix of tools that help the user understand, interact with, display, and disseminate the data.</p><p> Quick link to data page: <a href="http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/tags/series" target="_blank">http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/tags/series</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Federal Aviation Administration: Accident & Incident Data</h3><p><img width="100" height="100" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image80 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg 3x" data-max-w="550" data-max-h="550"/>The NTSB issues an accident report following each investigation. These reports are available online for reports issued since 1996, with older reports coming online soon. The reports listing is sortable by the event date, report date, city, and state.</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.faa.gov/data_research/accident_incident/" target="_blank">http://www.faa.gov/data_research/accident_incident/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>HUD State of the Cities Data Systems</h3><p><strong><img width="200" height="200" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image482 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg 3x" data-max-w="612" data-max-h="613"/>The SOCDS provides data for individual Metropolitan Areas, Central Cities, and Suburbs.</strong> It is a portal for non-national data made available through a number of outside institutions (e.g. Census, BLS, FBI and others).</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.huduser.org/portal/datasets/socds.html" target="_blank">http://www.huduser.org/portal/datasets/socds.html</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>The World Bank Data (U.S.)</h3><p><img width="130" height="118" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image484 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1406" data-max-h="1275"/>The <strong>World Bank</strong> provides World Development Indicators, Surveys, and data on Finances and Climate Change.</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states" target="_blank">http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>The Penn World Table</h3><p> The Penn World Table provides purchasing power parity and national income accounts converted to international prices for 189 countries/territories for some or all of the years 1950-2010.</p><p><a href="https://pwt.sas.upenn.edu/php_site/pwt71/pwt71_form.php" target="_blank">Quick link.</a> </p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>NOAA National Climatic Data Center</h3><p><img width="200" height="198" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image483 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg 3x" data-max-w="954" data-max-h="945"/>NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) is responsible for preserving, monitoring, assessing, and providing public access to the Nation’s treasure of <strong>climate and historical weather data and information</strong>.</p><p> Quick link to home page: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/</a></p><p> Quick link to NCDC’s climate and weather datasets, products, and various web pages and resources: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/quick-links" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/quick-links</a></p><p> Quick link to Text & Map Search: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>USDA Nutrition Assistance Data</h3><p><img width="180" height="124" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image485 lw_align_right" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1233" data-max-h="850"/>Data and research regarding the following <strong>USDA Nutrition Assistance</strong> programs are available through this site:</p><ul><li>Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) </li><li>Food Distribution Programs </li><li>School Meals </li><li>Women, Infants and Children </li></ul><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.fns.usda.gov/data-and-statistics" target="_blank">http://www.fns.usda.gov/data-and-statistics</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>