GAO Releases Findings of Post-9/11 GI Bill Study

GAO Releases

By Debbie Gregory.

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), $10.9 billion was spent by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) in 2011 on education benefits for approximately 1 million Veterans to go to college. The GAO’s findings provide the most in-depth data about Veteran Students and the institutions that they are attending.

The study found that the Post-9/11 GI Bill was the highest source of education benefits spending. This program provides money for tuition and fees to be paid directly to the school; as well as a monthly housing allowance & a per-term book stipend to be paid directly to the Veteran Student. At $8.5 billion, for 2011, spending is up fifty percent since 2009. Other programs include the Montgomery GI Bill and the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program which only accounted for a combined $2.9 billion for 2011.

These benefits have become a hot topic in Washington. Essentially, law makers want to know what the $10.9 billion in education benefits was being used for.

One of the key areas that have drawn scrutiny is the use of for-profit schools. Law makers have been critical of how for-profit schools recruit Veteran Students and are leery as to how well they are educating Vets once they are enrolled.

The GAO found that only a small group of institutions are receiving the bulk of VA education benefits. Some 654 institutions received a total of $3.8 billion, with individual colleges receiving between $2 million and $113 million. Only five percent of the nation’s colleges and universities received sixty percent of all Post-9/11 G.I. Bill tuition benefits.

The study also found that public and for-profit institutions received close to the same amount of all Post-9/11 GI Bill tuition payments over all. However, these numbers by themselves could be a bit deceptive. Public institutions enrolled 174,000 students utilizing the Post-9/11 GI Bill, at an average tuition of $5,000 per Veteran Student. While for-profits schools enrolled 99,000 Post-9/11 GI Bill students at an average tuition of $10,000 per Veteran Student.

So, while for-profit schools dominated the small school market, public schools enrolled around 56% more Veteran Students at approximately half the tuition cost each for 2011.

The study also attempted to shed some light on student success rates at the colleges that veterans attend, which was another concern of Washington. Overall, Veteran Students found greater success rates at institutions that enroll large numbers of their peers. The study showed that the group of schools that received at least $2 million in Post-9/11 GI Bill tuition payments had better completion rates when compared to other institutions in the sample.