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GI Bill, In-Service Courses, Boost Recruiting, Retention

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 3, 1996 – The Montgomery GI Bill has entered the second decade of existence hailed as a major contributor to the success of the All-Volunteer Force, Army Lt. Gen. Samuel E. Ebbesen recently told Congress.

The original post-World War II GI Bill of Rights gave returning service members a comprehensive benefits package to compensate for opportunities lost during the war and to help ease service member's transition back into civilian life, he told the Education, Training, Employment and Housing Subcommittee, House Veterans Affairs Committee.

"Perhaps the most far-reaching provision of the GI Bill was the financial assistance it made available for veterans to attend college," said Ebbesen, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy.

He pointed out that todays Montgomery GI Bill was established in 1985 to promote and assist the All-Volunteer Force program and the Total Force Concept through educational assistance based upon active duty service.

The general called the GI Bill an attention-getting incentive for education-minded recruits that has helped DoD attract the number and quality of recruits it needs. Noting enrollment rates for the bill rise each year, Ebbesen said 95 percent of recruits enrolled in the program in fiscal 1995, up from 50 percent in 1985.

"During fiscal 1995, all services met their recruiting objectives, accessing 168,010 first-time enlistees with excellent recruit quality," Ebbesen noted. "Ninety-six percent of new recruits were high school graduates compared with 93 percent in 1985.

"Even more dramatic is the change in above-average aptitude recruits; 71 percent of new recruits scored above average on the enlistment test in fiscal 1995, compared with 62 percent in 1985," he said. "Moreover, in fiscal 1985, 7 percent of new recruits scored in the lowest acceptable aptitude category; in fiscal 1995, we accessed fewer than 1 percent in this category."

The services are meeting their numeric goals with high-quality recruits during this fiscal year, Ebbesen noted. "Ninety-five percent of new recruits are high school graduates, while 68 percent scored above average on the enlistment test," he noted.

Enrollments also swelled with thousands of service members leaving service as a result of the post-Cold War drawdown. Those who volunteered or were involuntarily separated were offered a chance to participate in the Montgomery GI Bill, even if they hadn't previously enrolled in the program.

"More than 41,000 separating service members have taken advantage of this opportunity," Ebbesen said. "More than 18,000 separating under Voluntary Separation Incentive or Special Separation Benefit enrolled in the Montgomery GI Bill program, and more than 11,000 of them have used their benefit. More than 23,000 service members involuntarily separated since February 1991 have enrolled in the GI Bill."

Ebbesen said active duty service members don't have to wait until they're discharged to stack up college credit. They can "get a leg-up" on their education goal by taking advantage of the Military Evaluations and the Examinations programs.

"These programs produce college credit at considerable cost savings to service members and the government," the general said.

Under the Military Evaluations Program, the American Council on Education awards college credit based on its evaluation of military training -- formal courses and on-the-job training -- and work experience. The amount of credit hours awarded for different military skills and courses are published in "Guide to the Evaluation of Educational Experiences in the Armed Forces."

"For example, the guide recommends three semester hours in supply management, three in clerical procedures and one semester hour in interpersonal communication for a sailor attending the Navys eight-week Storekeeper Class A Course," Ebbesen said. "For an Army information systems operator, the guide recommends three semester hours in introduction to computers and computing, and three semester hours in introduction to computer operations."

Service members can earn college credit in more than 100 academic subjects through the examinations program at no tuition cost, Ebbesen said. "For example, one $35 test could produce the same three credits that might otherwise cost $300 or more in tuition," he noted.

"Credit for success in attracting and retaining high-quality personnel belongs in no small part to the Montgomery GI Bill program," Ebbesen told subcommittee members. "Largely as a result of the GI Bill, we have been able to increase and sustain recruit quality despite a shrinking pool of eligible youth in a period of fiscal austerity."

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