Protecting the Value of the Post-9/11 GI Bill

December 21, 2017

The Post-9/11 GI Bill has provided hard-earned educational opportunities to veterans and servicemembers and their families. Recent expansions to the benefit in the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, which MOAA supported, have provided even broader opportunities for the GI bill's use, including at independent-study programs, career and technical schools, and postsecondary vocational schools.  

The educational benefit, however, must be used wisely to ensure that when student veterans and family members complete their educational programs, they actually are in a better circumstance. MOAA has identified four main threats.

First, some schools have begun aggressively marketing to recipients of the Post-9/11 GI Bill because they want to increase their student veteran population for non-intrinsic purposes. Current law requires institutions to obtain at least 10 percent of their revenue from someplace other than federal government financial assistance. Funds from the GI bill and DoD Tuition Assistance aren't included in that definition, however. This creates a situation where a school can receive 90 percent of its revenue from federal student aid and 10 percent from DoD or VA beneficiaries, and thus a school can be 100-percent funded with federal dollars, putting all the risk of failure on taxpayers. 

The 10-percent GI bill loophole created an incentive for schools to aggressively pursue students using the GI bill to fill in their 10 percent of revenue, often misleading students about the value of the education they would receive. In 2012, a group of state attorneys general wrote to Congress asking for this loophole to be closed. Instead, a bill currently in Congress would eliminate the 10-percent requirement entirely and allow schools to receive 100 percent of their revenue from federal funds, regardless of the source. The bill is H.R. 4508, the PROSPER Act, otherwise known as the Higher Education Reauthorization Bill. To see what percentage of funds a school receives from the federal government, visit the office of Federal Student Aid website.

Second, GI bill beneficiaries who attend schools where GI bill funds do not cover all of their tuition often acquire student loan debt they cannot later afford to pay. An October 2017 report by the U.S. Department of Education found veterans had a higher loan default rate than other first-time students, as high as 45 percent. 

Third, according to Department of Education data, schools student veterans tend to choose have low overall graduation rates, even though student veterans themselves have above-average graduation rates. Low overall graduation rates often are associated with lower-performing academic institutions, although that is not always the case. The U.S. Department of Education maintains a College Scorecard with detailed information about school graduation rates.

Fourth, schools that accept the GI bill are not in any way screened to ensure graduating students will have positive outcomes, such as legitimate career opportunities. While current law does contain a rule requiring schools to “prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation” (20 U.S.C. 1088), it only applies to specific programs within a school and not to the school itself. The Department of Education has information about average salaries after graduation and should be consulted if students are curious about currently available data.

At a hearing last week regarding the implementation of the new provisions of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, questions by many members of Congress focused on measurable outcomes because of the concern Congress has about veterans receiving the best possible education with the benefits they have earned. Rep. J. Luis Correa (D-Calif.) specifically mentioned he would like to see outcomes of veterans making $60,000 to $80,000 a year after completing their education with the GI bill. Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) stated he wants greater scrutiny on the institutions themselves and whether they are delivering good outcomes for veterans in terms of earning potential and career opportunities, which he found more useful than mere graduation rates. 

While neither Congress nor the VA have settled on the right solution for ensuring the GI bill is the benefit it needs to be for veterans and their families, the debate continues, and MOAA will be engaged in the discussions to ensure your interests are represented. If you have ideas or questions about this topic, email them to


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