City Colleges make helpful addition to veterans’ benefits

By Editorial Board

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced on Nov. 8 a new program within the City Colleges of Chicago that will provide veterans with education assistance beyond what they receive from federal benefits.

The program will grant scholarships of up to $1,000 to veterans who attend any of the seven city colleges, such as Malcolm X College on the West Side or Harold Washington College in the Loop, and award transfer credits for military training and experience.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides veterans with full in-state tuition to any public university, but these scholarships would help veterans cover additional expenses like textbooks and give them extra financial stability as they work toward

their degree.

College can be a challenge for many people, both financially and personally, and veterans face these obstacles while trying to acclimate to civilian life.

Awarding veterans additional scholarships can help them manage these challenges, and giving them transfer credits for their service can keep them from falling behind. Veterans would receive seven credits for their basic training and possibly additional credits for their time in service. Approximately 33 percent of veterans in college receive transfer credit for their military training, according to a survey by the Pat Tillman Foundation.

Each city college will also create an on-campus veterans resource center staffed by a veteran who can assist with job placement and transitioning to civilian life, according to a mayoral press release.

These are good steps for the city to take, and hopefully measures will be implemented on the federal level. President Barack Obama signed an executive order on April 26 that will limit for-profit colleges’ use of misleading tactics to recruit veterans. Six of the 10 schools that receive the most money from federal veterans’ benefits programs have a freshman dropout rate of more than 50 percent, according to a White House press release.

For a relatively small amount of money—$50,000 in the program’s first year, according to a Nov. 8 Chicago Sun-Times article—the city can complement the benefits of the G.I. Bill and make education more obtainable for people who have served in the armed forces.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the October unemployment rate for veterans who have served since September 2001 was 10 percent, while the general rate was 7.9 percent. It’s great that Chicago is doing something to address this disparity through education, but something should be done on both the state and national levels. Veterans have served our country and proven their ability to accomplish goals, and the government needs to do its best to remove the barriers that keep them from obtaining an education.