June 3, 2008

Letter: G.I. Bill only benefits the rich

As a third-year in the College and a four-year veteran of the United States Navy, I was touched and honored to read Ryan McCarl's "Vetoing Memorial Day" (5/30/2008). However, I must wholeheartedly disagree that it would be in the best interests of our country's veterans to significantly increase the G.I. Bill.

First, the current payment of about $1000 a month is more than enough to cover a four-year degree at an in-state public institution. If our veterans wish to pursue their education at a more expensive, out-of-state or private university, then they should bear part of the financial burden. While my fellow sailors spent their paychecks on Mustangs and CDs, I saved a part of mine for four years to be able to afford an education at the University of Chicago.

Second, there already exist many programs for active-duty service members to pursue college credit with 100-percent tuition coverage, without incurring more time of service required. While this would be difficult or impossible for those serving in hazardous duty areas, it is more than feasible for those in between tours of combat duty or those serving domestic or non-combat duty.

Which leads me to my third point: Such a bill as currently structured would unequally benefit those service members who come from upper-middle-class backgrounds. The enlisted soldiers, sailors, and airmen who come from poor families and struggled in high school, the ones who have no college aspirations, are the ones who get low-level infantry and other combat-oriented rates (jobs) once they join. On the other hand, service members who come from somewhat wealthier backgrounds and did well in high school often join the military for the explicit purpose of going to college afterwards. In the meantime, they serve in the more technically demanding rates—electronic technicians, cryptologists, and intelligence. Not only are their job prospects better at the end of their enlistment, but a disproportionate amount never see combat or overseas duty. It is this subset of veterans who currently take advantage of the G.I. bill, and increasing the amount of the benefits would, to my mind, only help the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Instead of a blanket increase in the G.I. Bill, I would much rather see kicker payments for those who served in combat zones or a pension-type fund which matches contributions deducted from the member's own paycheck.

Alexis Reyes

Class of 2009