Baylor veterans’ futures unsure

Cuts to GI Bill impact students’ education decisions

By James Stockton

Veterans attending Baylor will no longer receive as much financial aid from the Post 9/11 GI Bill as they used to, effective Aug. 1.

In December 2010, Congress passed the Post 9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Improvements Act of 2010, an amendment to the original GI Bill, which has been a source of financial aid for veterans attending college since 1944.

There are numerous changes to the bill, including adding those who served in the National Guard to the list of those who can receive aid, but one change in particular is affecting Baylor students.

“The most significant thing is that private and foreign schools are capped at $17,500 annually,” Pam Edwards, veteran affairs coordinator at Baylor, said.

Edwards is in charge of making sure veterans receive their benefits based on active duty by certifying students who wish to use the GI Bill as their financial aid.

Before the change, the cap for private and foreign schools was given on a state-by-state basis and equaled the cost of the highest in-state public school tuition rate. This covered most students at Baylor because the Texas rate was $1,549 per credit hour, higher than most states.

In addition to a reduced cap for financial aid, Edwards said she must now deduct university scholarships and non-title for aid from the amount a veteran can receive.

Baylor students affected by the changes will have to make a quick decision about their future, as they may only have federal financial aid for one more semester.

“[These changes won’t] really hit them until spring because $17,500 would more than likely cover their fall tuition,” Edwards said. “It would be spring when they’re left with not much cap left to cover their tuition.”

Wichita Falls senior Daniel Cervera, an Iraq veteran, currently serves as a student senator and is weighing his options as he tries to finish his college career.

“I need to decide whether I fit my remaining 21 hours into the summer and fall, while finishing an honors thesis and dealing with graduation, or staying a full academic year and incurring $10-15,000 of debt,” Cervera said.

Because none of the options seem good, student veterans are hoping Baylor will help them out.

The Yellow Ribbon Program, established by the federal government in 2009, gives veterans attending private schools the opportunity to earn additional financial aid.

Lori Fogleman, director of media communications for Baylor, said the university has been working to implement the Yellow Ribbon Program at Baylor, which would allow the university to offer additional aid to veterans at its discretion.

“There hasn’t been a decision made yet, but we’re close,” Fogleman said. “We do expect to participate.”

Fogleman said Baylor is in the process of working out finances to determine how much aid the university will be able to offer veterans in addition to the GI Bill. Regardless of how much Baylor is able to offer, the new changes have made some students’ decisions for them.

Trent Cryer, a freshman from Washington, D.C., moved to Waco last August to attend Baylor on the Post 9/11 GI Bill after serving in the United States Army as a sergeant. Because of the changes, however, Cryer will return to Washington, D.C., to work while attending a more affordable state school part time.

“I don’t see it as Baylor’s responsibility to cover the difference,” Cryer said. “I would like for them to match what the GI Bill is giving, but it’s not realistic.”

More than 300 veterans attend Baylor on the GI Bill.