Generous GI Bill isn’t keeping today’s veterans out of student loan debt

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GI BILLDespite the generous benefits of the latest GI Bill, military veterans attending college are taking out substantial student loans, raising concerns among veterans’ organizations that they are unnecessarily diving into debt.

For most veterans, the GI Bill covers four academic years of tuition at public colleges and universities, and has programs to cover the vast majority of expenses at many private institutions. Veterans also receive a monthly living allowance — averaging about $1,300, depending on where they live — to help cover expenses while they attend school.

But data compiled for The Times by the Department of Education show that in one academic year — 2012, the latest available — 26% of undergraduates receiving veterans education benefits also took out federal or private education loans. The average loan was $7,400 — slightly more than for students who had never served in the military.

Veterans groups and lawmakers are concerned about borrowing by GI Bill users, who ideally should be able to graduate debt-free. “It’s a big issue,” said Walter Ochinko, policy director for the nonprofit organization Veterans Education Success. “We hear from a lot of veterans who have debt.”

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