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Augusta man has 'peace of mind' in pursuit of career with GI BIll after military service

Monday, July 14, 2014 8:26 PM
Last updated 11:49 PM
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Of all the benefits the GI Bill provided Stephen Safford, it was peace of mind that the Georgia Regents University senior said he found most rewarding.

Stephen Safford says the GI Bill allowed him to focus on his career.  WESLEY BROWN/STAFF
Stephen Safford says the GI Bill allowed him to focus on his career.

The former Fort Gordon soldier, who served in the Army from 2006 to 2008, said that along with tuition assistance, the federal aid paid for living expenses, such as rent and food, and helped him focus on the career he wanted to pursue.

Having overcome a shattered ankle and herniated disc from his time in the military, Safford, 31, chose to study kinesiology. Next summer, he hopes to get his bachelor’s degree and then begin the school’s doctoral program for physical therapy.

“It helped me successfully transition from active-duty military to full-time college student by providing less stress outside the classroom,” said Safford, who received the GI Bill from January 2010 to October 2013. “It gave me guidance, the ability to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.”

Last month, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs celebrated 70 years of investment in the education and economic prosperity of America’s service members and veterans.

The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, as the GI Bill was known, was enacted June 22, 1944. The law provided a wide range of benefits for veterans returning from World War II, including low-cost home loans, education and vocational training.

The original GI Bill was heralded as a success and a major contributor to America’s stock of human capital that sped long-term economic growth across the nation, according to the VA.

It reached nearly half of the 16 million World War II veterans, and today the VA is paying out more than $41 billion in benefits since August 2009 to fund the education of 1.2 million people. The agency said new online tools on the GI Bill Web site help veterans learn more about their vocational aptitudes and select an educational institution and training program right for them.

VA is committed to ensuring today’s veterans have every opportunity to achieve their goals, and the GI Bill is one big way in which we are delivering on that commitment,” said Allison A. Hickey, the VA’s undersecretary of benefits.

Safford said it was not so much cost, but the location and staff, that made him choose GRU, which has the most GI Bill recipients in the area (986), to cash in his benefits. Besides waiving all institutional fees for active-duty students, the school is near his home and has advisers devoted to helping incoming military students obtain a quality education and survive financially at the same time.

“Through my adviser’s and the GI Bill’s help, I realized just how valuable an education is,” Safford said.

Marion Wilson, the program director of military services at GRU, said that the GI Bill not only helps the school’s veterans graduate with a degree with little to no debt but also benefits classmates and faculty members.

Wilson, an adjunct professor of communications for three years, said veterans’ leadership skills have helped some students become more vocal, assertive, proud of and interested in the military.

“The GI Bill has been an educational equalizer for society in the United States, because with it, higher education is no longer just for the affluent,” Wilson said. “This program allows individuals from all backgrounds to pursue and obtain a higher education. It is a win-win for all involved.”

GI Bill funding in the area: 2009 - 2013
Georgia Regents University986$7.9 million
Augusta Technical College542$1.3 million
Strayer University – Augusta498$9.8 million
University of Phoenix – Augusta462$5.6 million
Georgia Military College – Martinez350$1.8 million
Aiken Technical College258$1.2 million
Virginia College – Augusta232$4.1 million
Troy University – Augusta200$859,554
University of South Carolina Aiken198$2.4 million
Miller-Motte Tech. College – Augusta73$772,657
Paine College65$873,112
Augusta Schools of Massage31$224,436
Cambridge College – Augusta9$73,584
Voorhees College – North Augusta3$21,237
Ga.Regional Public Safety Center1$3,093
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thauch12 07/15/14 - 12:27 am
The numbers don't lie...

Look at the chart, these for-profit colleges are raking in your hard earned taxpayer dollars. Strayer takes in more than both GRU and Augusta Tech COMBINED, while educating quite literally a third of the amount of students. And that is just one of these diploma mills...

The federal government has got to put a stop to this nonsense. Taxpayer dollars (be it through the GI Bill or through government loan programs) should only go to recognized, accredited non-profit institutions that actually graduate students with useful degrees. Unfortunately a $25,000 degree in "medical assisting" or "office management" isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

corgimom 07/15/14 - 11:16 am
thauch, I thought the same

thauch, I thought the same thing!

Sweet son
Sweet son 07/15/14 - 04:23 pm
My Dad was a WW II military vet dirt poor from Burke County but:

the GI bill paid for a college degree at Georgia Southern. Thanks to the US government for this help. His family would never been able to do this for him. Thanks GI Bill!

Sweet son
Sweet son 07/15/14 - 04:25 pm
It is sad to see the for profit so called colleges are taking so

much of the booty. Programs like this are the only reason they exist and I wonder about the quality of education vs degrees that are handed out.

justthefacts 07/15/14 - 08:01 pm

Are you saying the government isn't spending your money wisely? Unheard of!

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