Tester urges veterans to take advantage of expanded educational opportunity

Change under new G.I. Bill goes into effect July 1

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Jon Tester today urged recent veterans to take advantage of the Montana University System’s newly-expanded G.I. Bill initiative taking effect next week.

The federal program is a feature of the 21st Century G.I. Bill that Congress passed into law last year.  This change allows Montana’s public colleges and universities to partner with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to cover tuition expenses for Montana veterans attending graduate school in the state.  The change will also allow out-of-state veterans to pay in-state rates at Montana public schools of higher education.

Most recent Montana veterans already are eligible for undergraduate tuition benefits under the new G.I. Bill.

Under the program, the Board of Regents can fund tuition expenses that exceed the highest public in-state tuition rate. Schools can contribute up to 50% of those expenses and the Veterans Administration will match that amount dollar-for-dollar.  The Board of Regents voted unanimously on May 29 to allow all University System campuses to participate.  The move came after Montana State University worked with Senator Tester’s staff to expand the opportunity statewide.  The change goes into effect July 1, 2009.

“MSU took great pleasure in fulfilling our obligation to our veterans by moving this proposal forward,” said Montana State University Vice President for Student Affairs Allen Yarnell. “And the Board of Regents, to their great credit, unanimously approved it.”

“This is good news for veterans and good news for Montana’s colleges and universities,” said Tester, who was one of the first cosponsors of last year’s G.I. Bill. “The investment is already paying off, helping veterans get the educational opportunities they deserve.  I urge veterans to grab hold of this great opportunity.”

The 21st Century G.I. Bill, authored by Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, updated the World War II-era program to meet modern-day educational needs.

"We were able to deliver this new, robust GI Bill with a great deal of collaboration and cooperation among members of the Senate, including Senator Jon Tester,” Senator Jim Webb said today. “The new GI Bill is critical to achieving fairness for our men and women in uniform who answered the call of duty to our country.”

“Our veterans served our nation with dignity and honor, and they deserve access to every opportunity possible, that’s why I was a strong supporter of the new GI Bill,” said Senator Max Baucus. “Giving veterans these opportunities is good for them, good for our universities, and good for our state.”
The bill will make nearly 1,600 of Montana’s newest veterans eligible for $15 million in education benefits this year alone.  Montana’s only member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Tester has also introduced the Rural Veterans Health Care Improvement Act (S. 658), which cleared the committee on May 21 and is awaiting a vote by the full Senate.