KMVT - McKinley Bill Would Give Veterans More Time to Earn STEM Degrees

News Article

Date: May 23, 2016
Location: Washington, DC

By Ted Fioraliso

We know it's not always easy for our veterans when they come home from war. Many want to go back to school to complete their education, but they my not be ready right away.

"Primarily, they're [dealing with] issues of transition and identity," said Walter Tillman.

Tillman knows what it's like to come home after serving overseas. After fighting in Iraq in the Army National Guard, he now works for "Student Veterans of America" -- an organization that assists vets to succeed in higher education. The "G.I. Bill" -- passed during World War II -- helps do that, but Tillman says there are limitations.

"It only provides 36 months of entitlement benefits. So that means you pretty much have to be on track for four years, 15 credits each semester -- to be on track to graduate," Tillman explained.

Some lawmakers on Capitol Hill say that's just not enough time.

"They were failing to make that window, and it was costing them thousands and thousands of dollars a year, and that wasn't the pledge given to them," said Rep. David McKinley (R-WV).

McKinley authored legislation that would extend GI benefits for an extra year for veterans working on degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math -- or STEM.

"If we have our veterans coming back and wanting to go to college, and we have a shortage of STEM graduates, why don't you put the program together?" said McKinley.

Tillman and his organization are excited about the plan.

"We know, on average, these engineering degrees take a little bit longer, so it's critical we provide veterans that opportunity to be able to get those degrees," said Tillman.

McKinley admits he still has work to do to get other members to support his bill. A subcommittee finally held hearings on the legislation last month -- more than a year after McKinley introduced it.