It’s our duty to ensure that when the men and women in uniform who sacrifice so much for our nation return home, they and their families have the education and the training they’ve earned. The GI bill’s education benefits are critical to our returning servicemembers and their families.
But veterans have a limited amount of time before their GI benefits expire. At many colleges, general education requirements and prerequisite courses often fill up quickly, and it can take several semesters to secure a place in the most in-demand classes. Waiting for a spot in a required course is a luxury many veterans don’t have. If student veterans are unable to finish their degrees before their GI benefits expire, they can be forced to pay thousands in out-of-pocket tuition and fees.
That’s why Ohio public schools offer something called priority enrollment for veterans — a special, early enrollment period. This is the same status given to many student athletes across the country already. Priority enrollment ensures veterans can take the courses they need before their benefits run out.
All of our colleges and universities need to follow Ohio’s lead. If student athletes have priority registration, we can surely extend that same privilege to those who have served our nation.
That’s why I’ve introduced the bipartisan Veterans Education Priority Enrollment Act of 2017 with my Republican colleague Senator Thom Tillis to ensure that all veterans, servicemembers, and their qualifying dependents can use their GI benefits to their full potential, and be guaranteed priority registration. Congressman Tim Ryan and Congressman Ryan Costello, a Republican from Pennsylvania, have introduced the same bill in the House.
I’m also introducing the Yellow Ribbon Improvement Act of 2017 with my Republican colleagues, Senators Tillis and Bill Cassidy, which would expand eligibility for the VA’s Yellow Ribbon Program to surviving spouses and children of servicemembers who have died in the line of duty.
The Yellow Ribbon Program helps students avoid out-of-pocket tuition and fees for education programs that cost more than the GI Bill’s allowance.
Our servicemembers and their families sacrifice so much for our country. It’s our duty to ensure they can take full advantage of the education benefits they’ve earned.
The writer is a U.S. senator from Ohio.