Monday, August 4, 2008

How the Higher Ed Reauthorization Helps Veterans

Higher Ed Watch has a good breakdown of what’s good and bad about the Higher Ed Reauthorization Act, but it looks like the legislation works in some benefits for veterans and their spouses and children by

-requiring zero family contribution for Pell Grants: Someone whose parent is killed in Iraq or Afghanistan while they’re under 24 or enrolled in college will have their family contribution readjusted to zero as long as they already qualify for the Pell Grant. What this means is that if you qualify, you’ll end up getting the maximum Pell Grant amount. Because the buying power of the Pell Grant has been declining for years, it amounts to a few extra thousand dollars in some cases. But every little bit helps, right?

-excluding GI Bill benefits from FAFSA calculations: When you fill out that overly complicated form to determine your eligibility for Stafford loans and other federal aid, the form no longer factors in benefits from the GI Bill, thus increasing aid you qualify for.

-guaranteeing readmission for veterans: The new legislation requires schools to readmit students who get called away for active-duty deployments. This was a problem before when tours of duty and training exceeded schools’ maximum leave lengths. Veterans would return from tours of duty only to be denied readmission, forcing them to go through a lengthy appeals process.

-establishing a Center for Excellence for Veterans: This is a newly proposed idea that still would need funding and further administration, but the idea is to create a body that would be the single point of contact to assist and advocate for veterans as they try to navigate the financial aid system. The proposed organization might also act as a contact for other veteran benefits, including those related to housing and health care.

There were some other fairly minor changes included with the legislation as well, mostly definition changes and changes to disability benefits for veterans. Veterans face a lot of the same issues that students face. The problem is that veterans may already come from low-income families, be first-generation college students, or be trying to raise families themselves. While most veterans benefits are handled through veterans committees and veteran-specific legislation, there needs to be cooperation across issue areas on issues like housing, education, and health care.

Cross posted at Pushback. (H/T to Ben Miller at Higher Ed Watch for much of the analysis.)

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