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GI Bill snag will cost former sailor $50,000

Aug. 30, 2011 - 03:33PM   |   Last Updated: Aug. 30, 2011 - 03:33PM  |  
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A former Navy explosive ordnance disposal technician and Iraq war veteran has been unexpectedly hit with $50,000 in law school costs because he has fallen through a tiny loophole in the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Garen Marshall, who left service in 2008 as a petty officer second class, is one of the thousands of veterans attending private colleges and universities who were supposed to be protected by a grandfather clause for GI Bill reimbursement rates when the veterans' education program shifted Aug. 1 from state-by-state tuition limits to a national cap.

Marshall meets the most of the criteria for rate protection. He had enrolled in New York University's School of Law before Jan. 4, 2011, still has GI Bill entitlement remaining on his 36 months of benefits and intended to be a full-time student.

But after consulting with the Veterans Affairs Department, university officials told him Aug. 25 that he missed one small thing: Rate protection applies only to students who are continuing their education at the same school. Marshall was finishing up his final semester at Baruch College in New York when he was accepted into New York University, and was still attending Baruch until he graduated in June.

Now the university is warning him that he'll have to find alternative financing for his almost $50,000 annual tuition and fee charges. He will be receiving just $17,500 while facing $48,950 in tuition and $1,306 in fees this year.

Marshall said he believed he was going to be grandfathered because he had been accepted into law school well before the Jan. 4 deadline.

"I was accepted to NYU on December 21, 2010," he said. "Since I had applied through the early decision program, I was legally bound to attend NYU from that point on. I received no scholarships, as expected, and was responsible for three years of tuition, approximately $150,000."

The 26-year-old said he will still attend law school, covering the extra tuition cost with money he had saved while in the Navy — which he had planned to use for a down payment on a home.

The loophole doesn't seem fair, he said.

"It seems to me that it would be a strange technicality not to be covered because I was at Baruch. That would seem to imply that because I was attending college, I will not be covered, but had I instead been sitting around doing nothing, I would be covered," he said.

"I was expecting my tuition to be covered in full, between the GI Bill, Yellow Ribbon Program and New York State Veterans Tuition Award," Marshall said.

He said that's why he applied for early acceptance, which he knew could reduce the chances of getting scholarships.

The valedictorian at his June graduation, Marshall said it was "a big shock" when he learned details of the GI Bill revision. If he had known about the change, he would have applied to law school under a nonbinding program that would have left open the possibility of getting scholarships.

Marshall's problems are the result of a change, effective Aug. 1, intended to simplify Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits by establishing a worldwide cap on tuition and fees paid for private and foreign colleges and universities that replaces state-by-state caps used in the first two year of the program.

The new cap, $17,500 in annual benefits, meets or exceeds the old caps in most states. Seven states, including New York, had higher tuition and fee payments under the old state-by-state calculation, which is why special grandfather rules were created so that people already attending school on the Post-9/11 GI Bill in those states would not be hurt.

The others states where students also protected from cuts in benefits are Arizona, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas.

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