Despite getting generous tuition and housing stipends through the Post-9/11 GI Bill, many veterans still need student loans to cover personal expenses, potentially setting them up for financial problems in the future, according to a new analysis.
“Older students, such as veterans, often have to juggle other financial obligations, including possibly caring for children or other family members,” according to a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts released on Friday.
“Student veterans are twice as likely as the general student population to have dependents of their own, which may increase their living expenses relative to more traditional students.”
A separate report from the group released last year found that about one quarter of veterans in undergraduate programs took out a student loan during the 2015-2016 academic year, despite having access to Veterans Affairs education benefits.
On average, those loans totaled $8,000 for veterans.
The new survey of nearly 3,200 veterans found that money most often goes to things like housing costs, groceries, and child care. Nearly six in 10 veterans who took out a loan said the money was needed to cover living expenses, rather than extra school-related costs.
“For many, these results may be surprising, in part because the Post-9/11 GI Bill offers a monthly housing allowance designed to cover — or significantly defray — the cost of housing while veterans are enrolled in a college or university,” the report states.
That housing stipend can top more than $2,000 a month, depending on where students are attending classes. The non-tuition money is designed to provide students with a sufficient financial safety net to avoid having to work a full-time job while finishing course work.
But researchers said the results show that the stipend does not cover all expenses for all students. Of veterans who took out loans, 21 percent said they needed the money just to cover the full cost of their housing.
Previous studies by the group found that one of the reasons for the loans is that veterans often do not know all of the benefits they are eligible for, and may take out a loan instead of applying for education aid from VA.
Pew officials said they hope to use the new findings to better understand what further financial help student veterans may need in order to more easily obtain a degree.
The report is available on the group’s web site.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.