America’s Free College Program: the G.I. Bill

by

Friday, July 5, 2019


Numerous 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have offered new policies in recent weeks, most notably, ones pertaining to the government’s forgiveness of 45 million Americans’  $1.6 trillion student loan debt

Last week, longtime free college advocate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), proposed doing away with student loans completely. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) then followed up with a proposal to forgive up to $50,000 of loans per individual. Many candidates have now taken a stance on student loan forgiveness and, more broadly, programs to ensure a free college education for all. All are misleading however, as America already has a free college program. It’s called the G.I.Bill.

The G.I. Bill as we know it today was first enacted in 1944 and ran through 1956. It provided educational benefits to eight million World War II veterans who then became a large contribution to the country’s economic prosperity following the war. Being that there were few civilian opportunities for those with combat specialties, the idea behind the bill was to more effectively reintegrate veterans into society by providing them a pathway to do so. 75 years later, the notion has again proven effective with 773,000 veterans of the Global War on Terror having utilized the now Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. 

More has changed in those 75 years than just the statutes of the G.I. Bill itself, most relevant  being general college culture and the perception of its need. In 1940, only 5% of the population had attended college. Last year, 70% of high school graduates were enrolled into 4-year colleges. A majority of these students won’t go on to become doctors, lawyers, engineers, or other professions truly requiring a degree. 

So, why do they go? The experience. And now they want it for free.

Except, just like enlistment papers, a line must be signed on loan agreements consenting to the loans. For military members, it is their time, service, and, quite possibly, life. For the student, their future income is at stake. The case now however, is that one party is attempting to justify a breach of contract, and thus nullify the meaning of the other.

Iraq War veteran and conservative pundit Rob Smith enunciated this sentiment in a tweet last Wednesday:

Despite Smith’s blood, sweat, and tears, his pocketbook would come into play to pay for what Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles calls “welfare for the rich.” Like the majority of the enlisted military, Smith comes from a working-class family, whereas the majority of college students grew up in high-income households. Former Navy Seal and now Congressman, Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), addressed this moral hazard via Twitter on Wednesday:

Through a new free college for all policy, the same veterans who earned their education through service would now pay increased taxes to finance the education of others who did not. Terms of service would become equivalent to merely existing, thus denigrating the value of service of hundreds of thousands of veterans and also disincentivizing an entire segment of potential military recruits who may have joined for educational opportunity. With a booming economy and unprecedented lows in unemployment, American military recruiting has seen a drop from its already dwindling pools of eligible recruits. Despite few recruits joining solely for the G.I. Bill, the loss of it as a possible recruiting tool could have larger implications as the nation speculates potential conflicts with China, Iran, and Russia.

The issue becomes further exacerbated when considering the impact of also educating illegal immigrants.

Last November, New York’s state legislature passed the “Dream Act,” a bill providing financial aid to illegal immigrants at its public universities. It has become the seventh state to do so, following California, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington. Five of these seven states that provide state funds for the education of illegal immigrants rank within the top seven states in total homelessness, and four rank within the top five states with the most homeless veterans. 

Republican state Sen. Daphne Jordan described the legislation as “a slap in the face for all the hardworking taxpayers who play the rules and struggle for the costs of a college education.” Furthermore, it is an offense to the nearly 107,000 Americans naturalized from 35 different countries through military service since 2001 who have additionally received a G.I. Bill. These slights should come as no surprise to veterans, however, who have seen Democrats lobby for policy that would limit both their educational and healthcare options, all while promising unrestricted access to both for illegal immigrants.

The G.I Bill is not a reward, nor is it an entitlement program. It is a promissory fiscal expression of gratitude from the American people to the American service member for doing what they did not. It is a legislative symbol of respect, invitation back into civil society, and written documentation of the high regard to which America holds for its veterans. To alleviate the population of its student loan debt is to rescind this thankfulness, thus insulting and ultimately undermining the significance of the sacrifice, selflessness, and fidelity demonstrated by U.S. service members and their families, past and present.

The support for these newly proposed policies once again demonstrate the younger generation’s overdeveloped sense of entitlement and self-interest.

 

Zach studied international business at the University of Denver following a tour of service in the Marines. As a proud Colorado native, he writes conservative commentary as a personal reparation for his red state turning blue. He now works in the beverage industry and travels whenever possible.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.


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About Zach Ziegler

University of Denver

Zach studied international business at the University of Denver following a tour of service in the Marines. As a proud Colorado native, he writes conservative commentary as a personal reparation for his red state turning blue. He now works in the beverage industry and travels whenever possible.

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