Serving country helps local man build college
soldier trains on the Bayonet Assault Course during
boot-camp at Fort Jackson, S.C. (Staff Photo by
Vincent Z. Whaley)
By Vincent Z. Whaley
City Press Staff Writer
(Published Sunday, March 5, 2000)
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. Matthew Woodward didn't waste
any time going to parties or hanging out with friends
after he graduated early from Science Hill High School.
He wanted to immediately begin his college education
in computer science.
Like most college students, however, Woodward faced
one dilemma lack of funds.
So when the Army offered him thousands of dollars toward
his education in return for a hitch in the service,
Woodward reported to the Army's training center at Fort
"I chose my military occupation specialty to be
in electronics repair, and that helped me qualify for
$50,000 for college tuition," the private first
"I plan to attend East Tennessee State University
to study computer science on the GI Bill after I'm honorably
While Woodward doesn't anticipate any financial woes
during his college education, ETSU Veterans Affairs
Coordinator Keith Johnson feels the current GI Bill
is insufficient for today's educational fees.
"The GI Bill has been around for more than 50 years.
It was first introduced in the mid-1940s, and its original
intent was to divert some of the veterans coming back
off the battlefields of Europe during World War II instead
of flooding the job market," Johnson said. "The
Vietnam-era GI Bill required too much of a contribution
on the part of a person in the military. Congress recognized
it was not successful, and in 1985 they came up with
the current GI Bill. A couple of years later, because
of the hard work, dedication and tenaciousness of Rep.
Sonny Montgomery of Mississippi, the GI Bill was officially
designated as the Montgomery GI Bill.
"The problem with the current GI Bill is that it
has not kept pace with the cost of an education on a
national basis. There is a cost-of-living increase built
into the GI Bill, but the cost of education has just
far outpaced that cost of living. So each year has gone
on and on, the GI Bill has gotten weaker and weaker."
Since not much has been done to correct the Montgomery
GI Bill's weaknesses, Johnson said it is being supplemented
with special funds from the Department of Defense.
"The DOD has taken this issue by the horns, and
they have recognized that the GI Bill is the reason
a lot of people come into the service," he said.
"So they started supplementing the congressionally-established
GI Bill with what are called College Funds. College
Funds also are known as kickers, which is a way to add
some punch to the GI Bill.
"College Funds are a specific amount of money that
is awarded to a service member or potential service
member. It is a contract amount. Over the years, because
of recruiting demands and challenges, they have had
to up that amount to where it is at $50,000 now. The
military occupational specialties that qualify for higher
College Funds are infantry, artillery, military intelligence
and other specialized fields. College Funds are designed
to attract those kinds of intelligent, especially talented
individuals into those fields."
It sometimes takes months before veterans receive funds
after their GI Bill application is processed, but student
veterans also are entitled to receive Federal Student
Financial Aid to help pay for tuition fees, books and
other school supplies.
"Institutions and ETSU is one of them
are not very understanding in granting deferments,"
Johnson said. "They want their money by the first
of class and for obvious reasons, but they should give
student veterans some slack.
"That is the reason for legislation I have suggested
to Sen. (Rusty) Crowe. One-fifth of that legislation
calls for a mandatory deferement of payment of tuition
and fees. In other words, if a student veteran walks
into my office and wants to use his GI Bill, I help
him start getting his GI Bill, and I would advise him
to request a mandatory deferment of payment of tuition
and fees each semester until he gets his money. Because
of the rigidness on institutions to demand the money
up-front, that puts stress on a student, but this legislation
would help cut them some slack."
For more information, call ETSU Veterans Affairs at
Related VZW stories: Focus
is on better educational benefits, Today's
Army puts LDRSHIP into service
Story and Photographs
Copyright © 2000-2004 by Vincent Z. Whaley
and the Johnson
204 W. Main St., Johnson City, Tennessee 37605,
All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
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