Thursday, February 24, 2005

Benefits, Shmenefits

When you enlist in the military, about 3 weeks into basic training, you are ushered into a room full of other 18-25 year olds and offered the opportunity to invest a portion of your paycheck for the first year of your service into the Montgomery G.I. Bill. The payoff is that after you're honorably discharged, you may use the 1200 dollars you invested plus the phenomenal interest it creates to help defray the cost of your higher education. I decided to finance my own bachelor's degree (See Excelsior College) and save my G.I. Bill for law school.

I've been in class for 6 weeks now, as have all the other folks in school with me. During this time, I've had to pay for tuition, books, rent, food, utilities, gas, insurance, daycare, and diapers. During this semester, I've received no money from the G.I. Bill. Apparently there is a backlog at the Okmulgee branch, which services my school, and they've been unable to process accounts. During a normal month, I'll be paid approximately $1000 from the G.I. Bill, which would go towards the daycare part of my finances (pretty much covers all of daycare for 3 children). For January and February, however, we've had to find other means, which is quite difficult.

It leads me to my hypothesis: The Veteran's Administration wants to make using the G.I. Bill as painfully inconvenient as possible to discourage people from actually using it as an educational finance tool. Consider the following:
1. There is a huge paper trail that must be filed at the outset, indicating your desire to use the G.I. Bill, including an application and your filing of your DD-214, which is your discharge paperwork (If you don't have that, you're SOL and have to wait about a year to get a copy).
2. The funds are not transferred at the outset of class. The basic idea, I think, is that this will discourage people from enrolling in the program then dropping out of school, although I doubt that is going to run rampant, as the efforts to simply get into the program are such a pain.
3. When the funds are transferred, it's month by month. This means that if you have tuition that is due up front, and can't afford to pay it and are relying on the G.I. Bill to help out, then you won't be able to enroll, and thus won't need the G.I. Bill.

Now I completely understand the need to be meticulous, but I also know that the Government is quick to overspend on several things. I remember when I lived in Maryland reading a report that the government spent several hundred thousand dollars to buy a property that they had purchased 80 years prior. If the government can be that sloppy about a piece of property, why do they have such stringent requirements to benefit the fewer than 20% of people that actually use their G.I. Bill benefits?

5 comments:! said...

actually, no comment. i'm shaking my head in disgust right now. i'm so sorry that you have to go through this. it's not enough that you're dealing with three kids and LAW SCHOOL, but to have to go through the added stress of dealing with this...i'm sorry.

i'm also freaking out - A THOUSAND DOLLARS A MONTH IN DAY CARE???? that's my entire budget for rent, food, utilities, credit card bills, etc. that's more than the rent on my whole place! man, there is something to be said for public school, which a former friend/roommate/single mother used to refer to as "free daycare." (yeah, she wasn't the best mother.)

Steve said...

A lot of this moves into another hypothesis of mine; that the government, in its effort to maintain the status quo, makes it increasingly difficult for one to improve their life position as they get older through education and training.
The theory I have is that they spend countless hours trying to convince you that life will be so miserable if you leave where you're already unhappy, that the fear of the unknown will overpower your malaise, which creates a convenient working class of drones and hacks that just survive from day to day.

OK, maybe that's not a "real" hypothesis, but could sound plausible in the right circumstances

Angie-Shi said...

Wow, thank God I skipped the GI Bill (much to the dismay of the drill instructor who presented the program in basic training).....I opted for Tuition Assistance, which covered the full cost of the Masters classes I took. All I had to pay for were the books. I felt I got a good deal out of that.

Steve, I will have to send you the latest in "force development." The AF now wants to make it so that all educational data (about any degrees you have) will be removed from an individual's profile that goes before a promotion board. They now basically say that having a degree or two doesn't make you special...they just want you to know how to do your job well. I have mixed feelings on that. Seems like you were right about the drones and hacks....

Steve said...

Angie-shi! Welcome aboard!
Thanks for visiting; tell your friends.
I need to consider why they would want to discount education. I'll get back to you on that. I have mixed feelings about it.

English Professor said...

But Steve, how can this be? Bush announced in his No Child Left Behind speech that the cure for our economic problems was for everyone to go get a college degree. Yeah, that's the ticket! Surely with that mentality he's ensuring that the system is in place to actually fulfill the government's end of the bargain.

Tongue-in-cheek, obviously. Disgusting. Have any of the bureaucrats who make up these rules ever had to write a check for tuition themselves? I doubt it.