Gov. Richardson touts new GI Bill at NMSU

Writer: Linda Fresques

Gov. Bill Richardson visited the campus of New Mexico State University on Aug. 20 to encourage eligible Armed Forces veterans to use the new Post-9/11 GI Bill Education benefit.

Governor Bill Richardson

Gov. Bill Richardson visited the College of Engineering to encourage veterans to use the new Post-9/11 GI Bill Education benefit. (Photo by Martin Yee)

He also be recognized NMSU for being named as one of the top 15 percent of veteran-friendly universities in the country by the national publication G.I. Jobs for its dedication, support and assistance to veterans who want to go to college.

“With its increased amount of payment and coverage, the new Post-9/11 GI Bill could transform an entire generation of veterans,” Richardson said. “Together with New Mexico State and other universities and colleges in the state, I urge our new generation of veterans to use this well-deserved benefit to pursue a post-high school education. It could be the key to achieving a greater post-military career.”

“The men and women who serve our nation are an important part of our community at New Mexico State University. We hope they will avail themselves of the growing educational opportunities we have to offer,” said Interim President Manuel T. Pacheco. “As the state’s land-grant institution, reaching our military personnel is a critical part of our mission. We have a dedicated Veteran’s Services staff who have helped us earn this designation. They are here and ready to help our military students.”

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is available to anyone who was active-duty on the September 11 2001, terrorist attacks and beyond. It pays full tuition and fees for four years at state universities or community colleges. Eligible veterans can also receive a monthly housing stipend and up to $1,000 annually for books. Members of the National Guard and Reserve who’ve spent three months or more activated for war service are now also eligible for this new and improved GI Bill.

The College of Engineering is preparing a support program to meet the particular needs of veteran students, including mentoring programs and tutoring.

“For decades, men and women returning from military duty have continued their education in Engineering at NMSU. We have found them to be very determined and focused in pursuing their degrees. They become student leaders and many are now successful in their careers and strong supporters of our programs,” said Kenneth R. White, interim dean of the College of Engineering. “We are now making a strong effort to re-emphasize our efforts to recruit and support military veterans.”

Another key feature of the new Post-9/11 GI Bill allows the transfer of a veteran’s earned educational benefit to a spouse and children. This is not allowed under the existing “Montgomery” GI Bill, which has been in place with minimal changes since President Franklin Roosevelt signed it into law shortly after World War II to help returning soldiers go to college and transition into a post-war society.

There are more than 180,000 veterans in New Mexico. More than 30,000 have served in the Armed Forces since the 2001 Terrorist Attacks – but fewer than 3,000 used the old GI Bill to go to college last year.

“We need to increase this number – it’s way too low,” said New Mexico Department of Veterans’ Services Secretary John M. Garcia, whose department assists veterans with filing for their state and federal benefits claims. “I appreciate the Governor’s full support in helping us reach out to the 27,000 veterans who aren’t taking advantage of their right to go to college.”

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