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GI Bill: No Data On Graduation Rates Confuses Program's Benefit, Efficiency

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History professor Meredith Richards Marti, left, gives a handout to U.S. Marine veteran John Wangler during their history class at Collin College in Frisco, Texas, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
History professor Meredith Richards Marti, left, gives a handout to U.S. Marine veteran John Wangler during their history class at Collin College in Frisco, Texas, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

The federal government has spent more than $20 billion helping 817,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan go to college. Yet, nine months after President Obama signed an executive order directing the Veterans Administration, the Department of Defense and the Department of Education to track completion rates, no one knows how many vets actually graduate.

Earlier this month, a partnership was announced between the Department of Veterans Affairs, Student Veterans of America and the National Student Clearinghouse. Together they will research and track student veteran college completion rates, Stars & Stripes reports. The news comes as veterans' advocates worry Congress may cut some post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits as they squabble over the federal budget deficit

"Degrees, certificates of completion, certifications, licensing—that to me is how you measure," U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki told a crowd at the national conference of Student Veterans of America. "Not who goes in the front door, but who completes the program."

The statement mirrors current trends in higher education that include state-based proposals to tie state funding to completion rates.

The Post 9/11 G.I. Bill is a program that cost the federal government $4.65 billion in 2011 alone. By the end of the 15-year program, the total cost is expected to top $90 billion. It covers in-state tuition at public universities or $17,500 per year at private or for-profit schools. Living and materials stipends are also included. Veterans who have served active duty for at least three years since September 2001 are eligible, according to Stars & Stripes.

Initial estimates predict that nearly nine-of-ten student veterans will drop out.

Student veterans also face trouble obtaining in-state tuition rates and other confusion with the GI Bill. Recent federal legislation sailed out of Congress that would create a centralized complaint process to track student issues concerning the GI Bill, USA Today reported, aimed to help ensure veterans complete their degree programs.

Earlier on HuffPost:

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