Educational funding for veterans and their families members are often overlooked by Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Since I have been writing about men and women of color who serve our country, I have noticed a trend that often one generation or two are unaware of a family member’s military service. The unawareness of a person’s military service also extends to the community as well. The lives of our military members are filled with many stories of sacrifice and hardship that comes with the courage to serve bravely.
|Montford Point Marines|
There are few true rewards that can be given to our military who chooses to risk their lives for our freedoms we enjoy. But there are many benefits that come with their service that we may neglect to highlight that will not only improve their lives but even enrich the communities they live in.
Here is some history for us to review.
|Original Triple Nickels Paratroopers|
After World War II, the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, which was also nicked name the G.I. Bill, was a law passed that provided many benefits for returning World War II veterans. The benefits included low-cost mortgages, low-interest loans to start a business, cash payments of tuition and living expenses to attend college, high school, or vocational education, as well as one year of unemployment compensation. It was available to every veteran who had been on active duty during the war years for at least ninety days and had not been dishonorably discharged; combat was not required. By the end of the program in 1956, roughly 2.2 million veterans had used the G.I. Bill education benefits in order to attend colleges or universities, and an additional 6.6 million used these benefits for some kind of training program. *
HBCUs saw many Black men and women attend college using G.I. funds. Although not as many took advantage of the funds as their White counterparts, those who did attend college helped increase enrollments at HBCUs, especially in the southern states. The G.I. Bill passage lead to additional laws passed that benefited HBCUs’ students. The Lanham Act of 1946 provided $100,000,000 in federal funding for HBCUs for expansions and improvements. In subsequent years and wars, additional educational funds have been provided for veterans and later for family members of veterans.
In 2008, the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 became law. This bill was unique in two ways: (1.) It covered 100% of educational costs of a public university or college for veterans serving active duty on or before September 11, 2001; and (2.) It allowed benefits to be transferred to a spouse or children. At private colleges and universities, the program is called the Yellow Ribbon program and the tuition is shared one to one up to 100% with the institution.
With unemployment hitting veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq underage of 30 at 21%, it is important for us to encourage our veterans to consider higher education and to use the benefits they have earned to pay for it. For older veterans who do not need an education or is already educated, they are positioned to help their family members obtain an education by passing on their benefits on to them.
When I share this information with Black veterans of recent wars, their career options and educational opportunities are not addressed within their community nor are they recruited by HBCUs.
A crisis in America usually hits the Black community hardest and has greater long term effects. At this moment, education, and economic plights are being touted loudly in the Black community but often without solutions or servant leadership to lead the charge make lasting changes. But in the Black veteran community, there is historical proof that veteran educational benefits, veteran business ownership, and military leadership knowledge can be used to transform a community and strengthen the Black Middle Class. The G.I. Bill help increased Black college attendance from 1% in the 1940s to almost 4% a decade later throughout the US. That educated Black Middle Class help provide a foundation for the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
Years later, the Post- 9/11 Veterans Bill can be an opportunity to educate millions of family members of veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. Many of those veterans will also become entrepreneurs. With the fastest growing segment of the Armed Forces being Black women according to a Pew Research, this will have a direct positive effect on the Black community in the next decade. But those changes will not happen if we are not more engaging of our veterans and their families who need us now more than ever as they transition to post combat life.
I encourage HBCUs and the communities of HBCUs to become more engage in Veteran Affairs. We often hear that sports and bands make up the core of a HBCUs’ interests. I challenge that notion but recognized why it is repeated. It is time for HBCU communities to look for new ways to engage and look for leadership in places that minority communities often overlook but majority communities turn to first, a person with a military background. Maybe the structure and discipline of a veteran may play to strengths and improve weakness without the wave of emotion that often accompanies HBCU discussions. With millions of dollars that is being provided for veterans’ tuition, this can help bring much needed increases in enrollment at HBCUs. The harvest is plentiful.
If HBCUs do not aggressively recruit our country’s veterans and offer veterans jobs to glen from their leadership experiences, there are other intuitions that will do so without thinking. Educating our veterans and their families to help provide economic stability after their years of service should be a priority for everyone. HBCUs have an opportunity to seize the moment.