After more than three decades of serving our nation in the United States Navy, I often find myself reflecting upon the thousands of men and women I had the privilege to serve with, including the 8 young men and women I commissioned from the listed ranks to the officer corps. I heard the stories of many young recruits — where they came from, what drew them to wear our nation’s uniform, and what their country meant to them. Listening to these young souls was always humbling and inspiring.
They came from all walks of life, with every variety of life experience. But almost all were the same in dreaming big, for our nation and for themselves. Serving in any branch of the military takes tremendous sacrifice, but the rewards are enormous, and they should be. You commit to spending months away from loved ones, the comforts of home, and trade it all for demanding work and putting yourself on the front line of danger.
There is no questioning the commitment of our service men and women to our nation, so it concerns me whenever I see our country not fulfilling our commitment to them. This issue has been greatly on my mind of late, as I see the continued efforts of politicians in Washington threatening to limit the educational opportunities of veterans afforded them through GI Bill tuition assistance.
Every year, tens of thousands of veterans return home and search for new opportunities by earning a college degree, and since its passage in 1944, the GI Bill has helped them. The choice has always remained with veterans on how and where to use this benefit they have earned, whether it be through a traditional, four-year institution, two-year school, vocational or trade school, or one of today’s many online programs. The right of veterans to choose their own educational path has never been in dispute.
My own daughter is a perfect example: a 1998 USNA graduate, after 14 years of active duty she made her own choice to enter the US Naval Reserve and pursue a life-long goal of becoming a veterinarian. The post 9/11 GI bill gave her that wonderful option. She is now a full-fledged Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and a newly minted Captain in the Naval Reserve serving the United States Second Fleet.
But if a handful of Democrat Senators and Congressmen get their way, GI Bill tuition assistance will have all the value of amusement park tokens when it comes to paying for education at certain career-oriented schools, certainly any for-profit institution that the liberal politicians hope to drive out of business. It is a disgraceful, ideological agenda to protect the elite education establishment in this country, and it is an affront to our brave men and women who have served our nation.
The targeting of for-profit colleges demonstrates that the Democrats don’t care about students, and certainly don’t care about America’s veterans, whose choice on the future of their careers and decision to improve their station in life will be severely limited should these politicians succeed. Their agenda will all but guarantee that dozens of great schools serving our veterans will be forced to close their doors, or drastically raise tuition. This includes immensely popular schools such as ECPI University, Keiser University, Full Sail University and Grand Canyon University, all of which offer a wide range of popular programs uniquely tailored for today’s working-adult and online learners, which includes almost all of America’s veterans in the market to earn a college degree.
Veterans, as much as any other group, are seeking to earn their degrees outside of the traditional four-year institution model of the past, and will be punished if GI Bill tuition assistance remains acceptable to use at State College U — where they will have to take courses unrelated to their field of study — but not at one of the Democrats’ blacklisted colleges. With most veterans already having jobs and families, the end result is that many veterans won’t be able to return to school at all with their list of options cut to shreds.
What has changed from our Navy of the distant past is the ability of young men and women to continue their education even while deployed at sea. Our ships now have updated libraries with great computer access and complete internet access almost 24 hours a day. Combat restrictions and security considerations apply.
The mission to protect education choice for veterans is critical, both for our men and women in uniform, and our nation’s future. So desperate is the left to control education in this nation that they’ve gone so far as to establish so-called “veterans” groups like Veterans for Education Success (VES) that are in-fact run by Democrat operatives pushing this far-left agenda. They are not for education success, and they certainly are not for our veterans.
It is important to note that GI Bill tuition assistance isn’t like traditional government assistance, such as Title IV loans that many students rely on today. While valuable, Title IV is publicly available, while the GI Bill is a benefit earned through service, the fulfillment of a pledge we make to those who accept the challenge of military service. They cannot be compared, as many politicians do in their justification in limiting educational opportunity for veterans.
I served America in the U.S. Navy for over 30 years mostly out of love; of my country, my family, and my fellow Americans whose liberty I treasure as much as my own. I think today of those entering the service, and how our nation will repay them for their willingness to put their lives on the line for all of us, and whether we will honor them by honoring our word. GI Bill tuition assistance belongs to our men and women who have served, not the liberal politicians in Washington. We must let our veterans make their own choices and use the rights they have sacrificed for in making their own decisions about their education and their future.