New G.I. Bill Enjoys Widespread Support

It's largely credited with sending a generation of U.S. soldiers to college and creating America's strong middle class.  But the days of the G.I. Bill being able to fully pay for a college education are long gone.  Now, more than half the members of the U.S. Senate are co-sponsors of a new G.I. Bill.

Such a bill would greatly increase the amount of college money available for returning service members.  Critics worry it could actually entice too many to leave the service for a better life.  Supporters argue it will make military recruiting easier and provide the workforce with more educated young people, not to mention show support for the troops.

Brigadier General Peyton Cole, the former 2nd Bomb Wing Commander at Barksdale Air Force Base told KSLA News 12, "well, I'm all for it.  I think anybody that has a son or a daughter that's thinking about going to college ought to be taking a real hard look at that option."

If approved, a new G.I. Bill couldn't come soon enough for returning troops who sign-up for college only to realize the current program has not kept in line with the soaring cost of college.  "We have a hundred and fifty students on campus that are utilizing the G.I. Bill," said Heather Marzec.  She's the assistant registrar of admissions and records at Lousiana State University-Shreveport.

Marzec told us that tuition and fees for a full-time student at LSU-Shreveport run almost 17-hundred dollars a year.  That doesn't included the costs of everything from books to living expenses.  Another potential obstacle with using the G.I. Bill:  Students must pay the bills up front, then they're reimbursed.

The new bill would greatly increase the education benefit for post 9/11 active duty service members, including those in the national guard and reserves.

Critics, including the White House, complain a new G.I. Bill could prove much too costly and make it difficult for the military to keep experienced troops beyond their first tour if the education benefit is too appealing.

But Gen. Cole answered, "a lot of these young men and women are going to leave early.  But, they're going to come back and they'll bring that experience back with them.  There's a counterpoint to that argument, certainly."

Both Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are co-sponsors for the bill.  As for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain, himself a decorated veteran and former p-o-w, he said last year he hadn't had time to read the bill, yet.  McCain has still not signed-on.