Although the new GI Bill now has a specific provision to pay tuition and fees for online education (and is the preferred method of payment for online universities), the fact that Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) does not yet apply to students in online degree programs has been the focus of discussion in the military community and Congress.
The GI Bill was updated in 2008 to better accommodate today’s service members, but research was only beginning to measure the impact of online education on the active duty and veteran population. Online classes and degree programs are being used by over 50 percent of those with military experience, creating a need for GI Bill updates to bridge the gap between traditional lecture classes and the online degree programs favored by service members as a better fit to their unique lifestyle and life issues. There are several GI Bill updates expected to filter through Congress in the coming year.
According to the Veteran’s Administration, even before the increases in the GI Bill in 2008, over 500,000 veterans accessed their benefits -but many more let their benefits go to waste. Even with the help of a stipend and tuition coverage, the benefits often don’t pay enough to allow some veterans to attend college and support their families. The new GI Bill tries to address this by making BAH available to veterans at E5 rates for those attending traditional college lecture programs.
However, even this may not be enough. Studies have shown that older students re-entering education rely on flexible degree programs that allow them to work while completing educational requirements. The new GI Bill does not yet allow students in online programs to qualify for BAH, but that looks like it might be changing.
It is becoming clear that online education and degree programs are one of the most important tools available to active duty and veteran service members seeking to advance their educational goals. Several organizations and members of Congress have recognized this and are working towards incorporating more benefits for online education into the GI Bill program. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee has introduced legislation (The GI Bill Fairness Act) to address the inequity in allowance share, which will permit veterans pursuing degrees at accredited online universities to take advantage of the housing stipend.
As service members and veterans enter the world of online learning, their impact is obvious. Most online institutions have dedicated specific pages to military benefits on their websites, and while Congress works to decide how to accommodate the online revolution in education through the GI Bill, online universities work overtime to make sure they have qualified and trained representatives helping military students make the most of the benefits available to them. Since GI Bill benefits are time sensitive and only available for 10 years from the time a service-member leaves the military (ETS date), staying informed of advances in your military benefits package is important.
Changes and updates to the Montgomery GI Bill are happening fast. DegreesFinder.com can help you find online degree programs that work with your military benefits.
*Degreesfinder.com is not affiliated with the armed services or any government entity