GI Bill would pay $28,000 per semester



At that rate, every veteran in Texas could afford to go to Rice University on the government's dime when the bill takes effect this fall.

Educators who work with veterans say the list is a rush job and those jaw-dropping numbers likely will fall. But until then, it's sending waves of shock and awe across the veteran-educator community.

“I kind of find this unbelievable at the moment,” said Joe Polasek, the veterans certifying officer at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Even more unbelievable is the wild variation between states. While Texans could afford a highfalutin private education, veterans in Arkansas would be capped at $2,633 per semester.

“Certainly, the numbers were a surprise to us,” said Anne Gross, vice president for regulatory affairs at the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

The VA is aware of the issues and is trying to fix them, she said. As of Thursday afternoon, VA officials hadn't responded to a request for an interview.

“Pretend it doesn't exist for a few days,” Gross said of the list.

As written, the new GI Bill promises to pay tuition and fees up to the cost of the most expensive public university in each state, plus a housing stipend that varies by city.

That means veterans can go to a community college or an elite private school, but Uncle Sam will only pay up to that cap.

Anticipating private school tuition would exceed the cap, lawmakers created the Yellow Ribbon program to allow private schools to split the difference with the government.

But at $28,126 a semester, Texas vets would have no problem affording a private education.

How did the VA come up with that number?

Connie Jacksits, education director at the Texas Veterans Commission, submitted the figures for Texas.

She said the VA wanted two numbers — tuition per credit hour and total fees for the most expensive public undergraduate programs in the state.

Jacksits identified the University of Texas at Austin's pharmacy program for the most expensive tuition per credit hour, and a pilot training program at San Jacinto College for the most expensive fees.

A $12,130 fee is common for a specialized pilot program, but it's far more than a typical undergraduate would pay.

And though UT may list a price per credit hour as $1,333, a typical full load costs about $4,400 per semester because the more classes a student takes, the less he or she pays per hour.

Jacksits said she told this to the VA, but the agency wouldn't not accept it.

“They specifically asked for the per-credit-hour charge and Texas does not operate that way,” Jacksits said.

Multiply that anecdote by 50 states with thousands of institutions, and the tangle begins to emerge. The new GI Bill is generous, but has proven tough to implement, said Jennifer Hammat, assistant vice president for student affairs at UT-Austin.

“It's like trying to do origami,” Hammat said. “We just keep an ear to the ground. I would like to think we would hear things out of D.C. first, but it doesn't always happen that way.”


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