Keeping Troops Out of College and On the Battlefield
Earlier this month, my collegue James expressed his bafflement that John McCain wasn’t supporting Jim Webb’s expanded GI Bill. At the time, McCain hadn’t expressed a reason for not supporting the bill, but now he has announced why: he is concerned that expanded educational benefits would lower overall retention rates.
Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has suggested he would oppose a bipartisan measure by Virginia Sen. Jim Webb to expand college tuition benefits for military veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
But McCain echoed the concern voiced by some in the Defense Department who worry that the promise of full college tuition could entice many troops to leave the military sooner than they otherwise might at a time of war.
Webb has bristled at that criticism, saying a college education should be viewed as “a cost of war” that is owed to veterans. Webb himself, a decorated Vietnam combat veteran, used the GI bill to pay for his law school degree.
“There are too many people in the Pentagon who are seeing a good GI Bill as affecting retention rather than rewarding service,” Webb said last week on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”
This seems to me to be a rather dubious reason to forego supporting this bill. A college education is the least this country can provide for those people who are willing to fight and die on behalf of their country. As James pointed out in his earlier post,
An NPR story on this issue this morning noted that the original G.I. Bill was sufficiently generous that vets could attend even the most elite private institutions. Given how much tuition has soared compared to inflation, that’s probably not feasible. Certainly, though, a year of military service ought earn a year’s in-state tuition and books at a public institution. And it would be awfully nice, indeed, if the elite private schools considered a G.I. Bill voucher payment in full.
I concur wholeheartedly with this sentiment. Indeed, one would think that a veteran like Senator McCain would do more to support the troops who risk their lives every day out on the battlefield. After all, they can’t all marry wealthy heiresses now, can they?