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Friday, March 6, 2015


Posted Tuesday, July 24, 2012, at 12:17 PM

I do not consider myself a resident of any one state, though technically Idaho is my state of residence (I think?). Rather, I'm a resident of the United States. As a military brat, I had no say in where I lived the first 18 years of my life. My parents didn't get a say either.

So while I spent birthdays without both parents, a few months without either parent and worried about the safety of whichever one was gone, I was quickly collecting zero residence.

Then along came this great program: the post 9/11 GI bill. My mom had used her spouse's stipend to get her degree, so they decided to pass theirs on to me and my siblings. The idea was that whatever my sister and I didn't use, my brother could. If we used it all, at least my parents would have time to save and would only have to pay one kid's tuition. We would all have college degrees and graduate debt-free.

Well...I'm already $3,500 in debt. And it will probably get higher.

The GI Bill gives the student a housing stipend every month they are enrolled, prorated if they aren't in school the full month. They cover the highest public in-state tuition. If you're fortunate enough to go to an out-of-state school that participates in the Yellow Ribbon program, the VA and school will agree to split the difference. If your school has this, you get to go to school for free.

In theory.

Thinking that I would get my education completely free, I chose the University of Oklahoma. I got in, had all my GI Bill paperwork completed and approved and was ready to go.

But OU mandates all freshman under the age of 20 live on campus. On campus housing does not follow the housing market, so my housing allowance (BAH) fell short of what I owed.

Despite the two scholarships I'd managed to procure, I was short a little over $3,000, and you can't enroll if you have a balance. I had to take out a student loan. Though my parents can't afford to pay for my school, the FAFSA thinks they can and therefore, I didn't qualify for a subsidized loan. This means I am already accruing interest on that loan, even though I don't have to start paying until I graduate. I don't have enough money to make worthwhile payments right now.

What I did not realize, and was not told when I had asked, was that the Yellow Ribbon program has a cap. Each party agrees to pay up to $5,000 per academic year.

I'd used up all of the VA's portion in the spring, and only had about $1,100 of OU's. I am short another $3,000. I'm hoping that the scholarships I got for this fall will cover that difference, but if they don't, I will have to take out another loan.

The GI Bill was created to help veterans and their families get an education without financial burden, as a thank you for their service. I appreciate it, don't get me wrong. The amount of thankfulness I felt seeing my very large tuition payments disappear is indescribable.

But the universities are failing GI Bill students. In California politicians entertained the idea of granting illegal immigrants resident tuition. I don't recall if that was ever passed, but I feel like the same thought should be extended to veterans and their families.

If the thought of more people being shoved into debt when they thought they were getting their education completely paid for doesn't make you upset, remember that the GI Bill is funded by tax dollars...If the VA is paying my tuition, it would be cheaper to let me have in-state tuition.

If I'd known what a mess this would cause, I probably would not have come to Oklahoma...

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Without a doubt veterans and their families should get the lowest tuition possible in any state.

-- Posted by royincaldwell on Tue, Jul 24, 2012, at 1:33 PM

Contact your Congressman. That is something that they are supposed to help you with. I am not sure if you should contact OK or ID.

Thinking of you and hoping that something gets resolved soon.

-- Posted by KH Gal on Tue, Jul 24, 2012, at 2:47 PM

Good luck Melodie!

-- Posted by jessiemiller on Tue, Jul 24, 2012, at 8:01 PM

I hate to say this Melodie, but most of us who have gone on to higher education have come out of it in debt. Perhaps focus more on the fact that you have an edge over most---you get some money to "live on" each month which is more than most students get and you do have some assistance.

My husband is currently finishing his Masters under this program. It is NOT presented/repesented as a way to go to school for "free" if you read the fine print.

Be thankful that any of it is covered and that you were afforded the chance to go to a school of your choice without the penalty of out-of-state tuition which makes many colleges unaffordable to many students.

Nothing in life worth doing is without struggle. You are a very smart young lady and you have a bright road ahead. This is a "small" obstacle in a big picture. You are very innovative and SMART! Use that to your advantage.

Hang in there. I can't stress enough how smart and gifted you are. Do not let this deter you. Good luck Melodie. You would make a great advocate as to why parental income should NOT count as income for students who are on their own and are not "supported" by mom and dad. That is a very bad rule on financial aid forms, etc. for students who are on their own. You write and speak well---advocate for change.

-- Posted by OpinionMissy on Wed, Jul 25, 2012, at 6:37 AM

The articles you have posted since I have been following these blogs demonstrate a variety of talents and abilities. I suspect that they will carry you far beyond the U of O campus and your current circumstances.

Strive to keep your loan balances as reasonable as you can, but plan to proudly walk across that stage and collect the reward you will have earned.

You go girl!

-- Posted by wh67 on Wed, Jul 25, 2012, at 8:35 AM

Things aren't always the way the should be. A hundred years ago, I got out of the military to attend university. Ran into a girl I went to high school with. She was a teen mom and decided to go to university too. I thought it was great that she had some ambition to improve herself. I spent 4 years in the military to get some of my college paid for. Iwent in the Guard to get some additional money, had a small scholorship and still had to take out student loans. She had her college paid for. I had to rent a place. She had low-income housing that paid for her housing. I ate my share of ramens b/c I often didn't have money for decent food. She was given food stamps. I drove a 74 VW and remember putting in $2.00 in change worth of gas. She was given money for new tires and gas to get to school, and daycare was provided for her little boy.

The money invested in her wasn't wasted. She earned her degree. That little boy is now in the Marine Corps. She is the type, I think, we don't mind spending tax money on. It helped her with a step up and she worked hard. I have to say though, at times, when I was working a couple of jobs and going to school, I wonder why I spent 4 years of my life working to go to school and still was bustin my behind, when others just got help handed to them because they did stupid (my judgement) things. Really, though, I wouldn't have it other way. I earned my way - didn't get help from my parents and I am grateful I was able to do that.

But, I totally get what you mean. It just doesn't seem quite right - and it probably isn't. You however, appear to be a smart and tenacious person, albeit a bit poorer, I imagine. Stick with it, even w/those student loans and hurdle over those obstacles live throws at you. Good luck and hope to hear some more about your thought on college life.

-- Posted by froggy on Sun, Jul 29, 2012, at 2:40 PM

So, by virtue of being spawned of at least one U.S. military member, you think you're entitled to demand other Americans pay for your post-secondary education?

I vote that the G.I. bill serves to support the warrior in the danger zone...how dare you complain about benefits you didn't earn!

-- Posted by junkyard dog on Mon, Aug 6, 2012, at 5:59 PM

Excuse you JYD,

My parents earned those benefits and the right to pass them on to their children.

For the last 20 years I have given up my parents frequently to the service of this nation. I have gotten to sit at home, hoping that the mortar attacks on my mother's base aren't killing her. I have wondered when my father would come home, if I'd have both parents there for my birthdays. I've laid awake at night terrified that I would end up with just one parent or possibly orphaned. I have been dragged away from friends and family at the demand of the military, with absolutely no say in the matter.

How dare you assume that the children of military members don't suffer in any way?

And just so you know, I'm not upset with the benefits, I'm more upset that I don't qualify for resident tuition, and that it's not even being debated, while people weigh the pros and cons of letting illegal immigrants have resident tuition.

-- Posted by lilmissmelmo on Sun, Aug 12, 2012, at 11:54 AM

I just read this... JYD, the respect I had for you, what little there was, is gone. You are scum in my book. You're all for the "spawn" born in the US of illegal parents receiving benefits and "entitlements" but not for this girl? Just goes to show you how classy Democrats really are. You're entitled to your opinion but, don't "how dare you" someone when you shouldn't even have been opening your pie hole in the first place about something you know nothing about. I wish just once that you actually had something to say that contributed to these blogs. All I ever see you doing on here is telling everyone else how wrong they are and putting them down. Bitter much?

-- Posted by KentuckyTransplant on Sun, Aug 12, 2012, at 7:02 PM

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A Different Perspective
Melodie Lettkeman
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I'm a staff writer for the Tiger Tribune, and I have a lot to say! Music, books, movie reviews, my opinions and updates around the high school.
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