Attention veterans! Going to college just got a lot easier - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Attention veterans! Going to college just got a lot easier

By Layron Livingston - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Attention veterans: Want to go to college? Uncle Sam just made it a lot easier. Some are calling the new, post 9-11 GI Bill the most comprehensive educational benefit package for our service men and women since the original GI Bill of 1944. The program just rolled out, and East Texas colleges are already getting questions.

Harold Johnson, a.k.a. "Sergeant J," is thinking about a change of pace after nearly 20 years of military service.

"I like to teach history and I like to teach military history," said Johnson.

A 2004 soldier injury led to his discharge from the Marines. After a quick question and answer session with Smith County Veteran Services, that longtime dream of teaching may soon become a reality.

"Many veterans will view it as a big thank you for their service to our country," said veteran, Toby Cross, director of Smith County Veteran Services.

"I'd have never made it through college without the GI Bill," said Cross. "The post 9-11 GI Bill, it's awesome and well deserved."

To be eligible, veterans must have served at least 90 days post 9-11 active duty, or have an honorable, or qualifying discharge. Those who serve for 36 months could get 100% of their tuition and fees paid directly to the school of their choice. If you serve fewer than 36 months, you could get anywhere from 40-90% of your tuition covered. Add on $1,000 book stipend plus a monthly housing stipend, and education never looked so good.

But, is it too good? Some worry the bill may entice military men and women from the front lines to the registration lines. Vietnam veteran, Mike Collins and interim veterans affairs coordinator for Tyler Junior College doesn't think so.

"Many people go into the military, whether it be reserves, or active duty, to get an education," said Collins. 

He says more of those people are considering joining his student ranks.

"In the last probably two or three weeks, we've seen well over 100 new, chapter 33, post 9-11 GI students," said Collins. "Everybody has a chance at it."

Sergeant J doesn't want to miss his.

"Is it hard? Yes, but anything worth having, you got to work for it," said Johnson.

Depending on where veterans choose to go to school, the benefits are calculated using the highest in-state undergrad tuition rates at schools that receive public funds. Of course, veterans have to be accepted and enrolled before they can take advantage.

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