Editorial: A call to action: Aid Baylor vets

Esteban Diaz | Editorial Cartoonist

This version amends the previous with statements from Dr. Reagan Ramsower

Esteban Diaz | Editorial Cartoonist

Recent budget cuts on the state and national level, though tough, have proved necessary.

The recent cutting of funds for the GI Bill, however, is nothing if not a breach of trust and represents misplaced values in American society.

The GI Bill provides scholarship money for veterans to attend college after their service.

The amount of money given to veterans to attend private universities was originally determined on a state-by-state basis and would cover as much as the highest in-state tuition rate.

In Texas, the highest in-state tuition rate is $1,549 per credit hour and Baylor’s tuition rate per credit hour is $1,124, which meant veterans could attend Baylor at no cost.

Now, after the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2010, which was signed into law on Jan. 4, the GI Bill will only cover $17,500 of the cost of private and foreign universities per academic year.

According to Pam Edwards, veteran affairs coordinator at Baylor, the university must cut scholarships from the aid a veteran can receive as part of the changes to the GI Bill.

All of these changes will go into effect for the fall semester of 2011 and will adversely affect more than 300 veterans at Baylor. For many, assistance with education is a primary motivation for joining the military.

The contract military personnel sign with the United States government is legally binding and breaking this contract can result in criminal charges against individual citizens.

Similarly, any promises the government makes in return to military personal regarding the benefits of joining the armed forces should be strictly followed.

Reneging on such promises should be illegal and is definitely a breach of trust between the government and citizens. It is also, ironically, very unpatriotic.

Veterans, in repayment for the dedicated service to our country, are due any and all opportunities the government promised them.

Cutting funds of those already involved in programs with a high cost causes much distress.

While it would be nice to change President Barack Obama’s mind with a single editorial, it is also highly unlikely.

While we question why Congress approved cutting aid for our veterans, these new changes cut unnecessarily deep and harm the students who were already taking advantage of the GI Bill.

The minimum required tuition and fees at Baylor for the 2011-2012 school year is $16,044 per semester — or $32,088 for the entire academic year. The GI Bill will cover nearly 54 percent of the year’s cost — leaving $14,588 left for the student to cover.

Now the students enrolled here are faced with two options: stay at Baylor and try to cover the high cost or drop out. There are, unfortunately, several students forced to choose the latter.

That is why Baylor, as a Christian institution dedicated to freedom, should pick up the government’s slack and assist our veterans in any and all possible ways to help them stay in school.

According to Dr. Reagan Ramsower, vice president for finance and administration, said Baylor plans to participate in the Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program, which is a provision of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008.

The Yellow Ribbon Program “allows institutions of higher learning (degree granting institutions) in the United States to voluntarily enter into an agreement with VA to fund tuition expenses that exceed the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition rate. The institution can contribute up to 50% of those expenses and VA will match the same amount as the institution,” according to the Department of Veteran Affairs.

“We do want to participate,” Ramsower said at a panel discussion Wednesday to address students’ concerns. “At this point, the deliberations are still going on for the exact amount; we should know that fairly quickly. But we will be participating in that program.”

Our endowment is $1.1 billion and the new President’s Endowed Scholarship fund is climbing everyday.

We spend $87,000 each year on funding for individuals and student organizations through our student government — money given for events and campus guests. We can definitely afford to assist the veterans who have fought to protect America and all it stands for and we urge Baylor to match the dollar amount veterans received before these changes to the GI Bill came into affect.

Samuel Palmer Brooks charged this student body to protect Baylor’s mission.

“Build upon the foundations here the great school of which I have dreamed, so that she may touch and mold the lives of future generations and help to fit them for life here and hereafter,” wrote Brooks in his Immortal Message.