The House Veterans Committee is currently awash with over thirty bills to extend government-sponsored educational opportunities to Korean veterans. Out of all this verbiage have appeared three different approaches to the problem of a new G.I. Bill.
The first is merely to extend the old G.I. Bill. The second approach, Representative John E. Rankin's, is to provide for only half of the veteran's tuition costs, and raise the monthly allotments for personal expenses by five dollars. The third approach, and the one most likely to receive Congressional approval, is Representative Olin Teague's idea of paying all tuition funds directly to the veteran, instead of to the institutions as the other two bills recommend. The Teague bill provides for higher personal allotments and a fiat grant of approximately $270 per year for tuition purposes.
Common to these proposals is recognition of both the nation's continuing obligation to the veteran and veteran's continuing need for money to finance his education. Only one of them, however, recognizes an obligation and a need equal to those which brought about the first G.I. Bill.
Representatives Rankin and Teague propose cutting benefits in half, even though the cost of living and of learning has increased precipitously since the days of the old G.I. Bill. This would severely limit the number of veterans who could take advantage of government-financed education, a limitation that was foreign to the old law. What reason is there for discriminating against Korea veterans who have sacrificed and endured just as much as those who were fighting five years ago? Clearly, there is none. Congress, then, has a moral and a practical obligation to extend full benefits to these new veterans, and any bill that does not do so is worse than pointless.
Strangely enough, most of those testifying before the Committee have ignored this issue, preferring to concentrate on the problems and advantages of making all payments directly to the veteran. They point to the fly-by-night schools set up purposely to cheat the government, and recommend the Teague bill as a preventative.
Serious as these abuses are, however, they are not enough to justify such as a radical and undesirable departure as direct payments involves. By granting a set amount of money directly to veterans, the Teague method would encourage them to enroll in low-tuition institutions and save whatever money was left over for personal expenses. This in itself distorts the bill's purpose, which is to provide funds for education and education alone. But if the proposal to pay but half a veteran's tuitional costs is approved, as it would if Congress passes the Teague bill in its present form, then there would no longer be the question of temptation. Enrolling in a low-cost institution would be a necessity.
The Teague bill, in fact, would effectively limit the type of education a veteran could receive. This is far different from the aim of the first G.I. Bill, which was to make available to veterans funds enough to cover the cost of whatever kind of education they wished. This was an excellent idea, and the possibility of dishonesty is no reason for abandoning it.
But the problem remains: how is one to avoid the abuses of the old law? Perhaps the surest solution is a tighter accrediting policy. Every school, college or university that received money from the government under the old law had to be accredited, and the fact that many of them were shady is more an indictment of the administration than of the payments method. But unfortunately, Representative Teague is obsessed by this problem, so much so that he is willing to risk distorting the program altogether. Unfortunately, it seems that many members of the House Veterans Committee share this feeling and that soldiers who have served in Korea will become second-rate veterans so far as education is concerned.