Senator Jim Webb (D-Virginia) persuaded Congress to overhaul our nation’s “GI Bill” program, which helps military veterans go to college after serving their nation. Originally enacted during World War II with the purpose of allowing “vets to go Harvard” if they could get accepted, the program has seen its benefits decline in real terms over the years to no longer covering even most state college tuition costs.
Under the new GI Bill, the federal government now pays a variable housing allowance to participating veterans who served substantially since September 11, 2001. The program also reimburses veterans for any college tuition and fees up to the amount charged by the most expensive state college for “in state” tuition. And then there is the “Yellow Ribbon Program.”
Under that new initiative, the federal government will match private colleges dollar for dollar in any reduction to an eligible veteran’s tuition bill that exceeds the highest in-state tuition charged in that state by a state college. So if the highest Massachusetts state college in-state tuition and fee cost was ~$20,000 per year, and MIT’s tuition was ~$40,000 per year, if MIT agreed to lower tuition by up to $10,000, the federal government would match that reduction.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, over 11,000 colleges are participating in the yellow ribbon program, including Harvard, Columbia, and Georgetown. But not MIT. Some months ago the MITMAA board of directors unanimously voted to ask MIT President Susan Hockfield to take notice of the new GI Bill and commit MIT to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program in at least some fashion. Unfortunately, despite the relatively few qualifying veterans likely to be accepted to MIT this year, President Hockfield rejected any participation at all in this important national program on apparently ideological grounds, stating that all MIT financial aid is need-based.
MIT’s outright rejection of the new GI Bill is disturbing given the nation’s military and national security investment in MIT over the past century. The decision does not reflect well upon the Institute and could give rise to Congressional animus in the future. MITMAA remains committed to persuading MIT to recognize the importance of participating in the new GI Bill in at least some fashion before the Fall 2010 semester.