As President Biden considers forgiving student loan debt, there are important factors to consider, including the impact on our military and veterans who earned opportunities to pursue an affordable college education.
For most veterans, the choice to join the military was foremost about serving our country. But for many, it was also about receiving benefits to attend college without debt. Earning the GI Bill meant giving up years of their lives, serving in dangerous jobs and situations. The student loan debate is leaving out the impact cancellation will have on the veteran and active-duty community.
That’s probably why, in a recent Mission Roll Call poll of 6,202 veterans, 77% opposed student loan forgiveness.
College is expensive, and it’s only getting pricier. But since an undergraduate degree — even if unrelated to one’s subsequent career — has become a barrier to entry for most professional career tracks, most prospective students feel like they have no other option. They become saddled with student loans that don’t go away in bankruptcy and can delay important life events like buying a home or having children.Video
But there has always been a path to free higher education. For over 80 years, military service and the GI Bill have enabled millions of Americans to pursue college debt-free, or nearly free. Serve in the military, and the federal government will help ensure you have the resources necessary for success without burdensome debt.
For over 80 years, military service and the GI Bill have enabled millions of Americans to pursue college debt-free, or nearly free
Already in college? Join the ROTC. In the military and want to use the GI Bill for graduate school? Use tuition assistance. Not sure what you want to do out of high school? Enlist and earn your GI Bill. Already have a degree or want to make the military your career? Transfer the GI Bill to your kids.
I joined the Marine Corps two weeks out of high school, deployed to Afghanistan, and earned my degree using the GI Bill. I know firsthand the sacrifices service members made to earn that benefit. They all made a choice. In most cases, joining the military meant receiving the GI Bill and the chance to go to school for little to no cost. They earned that opportunity.
The U.S. military is an all-volunteer force; the active-duty component makes up less than 1% of the total civilian population. Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans earn the GI Bill as an incentive for their service. It isn’t something freely given, and it isn’t something any civilian can feel entitled to.
For veterans and active troops who want to pursue a debt-free education through honorable service, policies that forgive student loan debt minimize their efforts and experiences.
Joining the military is not the only way to attend college, but it’s a vital option for service members who want a degree without having to saddle themselves with tens of thousands of dollars in debt. It was certainly the right of those who chose not to serve to find different options, but it should not be at the literal and figurative expense of those who served our nation.
Serving in uniform takes commitment and courage. And as our nation’s leaders discuss student loan forgiveness, we hope they adequately consider the life-changing decisions service members make for our country and honor their service in this debate.