NonresidentPosted 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.
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...
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