By Emily Morrow
Independent Florida Alligator, U. Florida
(UWire)—When Andres Martinez-Alegria graduated from high school, he decided he didn't want to go to college. Even though he had applied and been accepted by schools like U. Miami and Florida Atlantic U., he didn't really know what he wanted to do.
So he joined the Marines.
Twelve years later—after nine years of service and tours in Korea, Somalia, and the Middle East—Martinez-Alegria is in his second year of graduate school, pursuing his MBA.
He is among more than 750 veterans studying at U. Florida and benefiting from the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
The bill went into effect in August 2009 and pays tuition, fees, and living expenses for disabled veterans and veterans who served for at least 90 days from Sept. 11, 2001, and on, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.
As of Aug. 1, the GI Bill only covers the cost of in-state tuition and fees. This was a change from the earlier Montgomery GI Bill that gave veterans a lump sum of about $1,300 a month.
But recent changes to the bill have put aid recipients at a disadvantage, said Young-Ki Chang, president of UF's Collegiate Veterans Society.
As of Aug. 1, the GI Bill only covers the cost of in-state tuition and fees, putting any out-of-state veterans at UF at a significant disadvantage. Also, veterans no longer receive their monthly housing allowances during breaks.
"This change has the unintended consequence of hurting more veterans than it helps," Martinez-Alegria said. "It's not realistic to think that we're not going to have living expenses during winter break or spring break."
In December, for example, Chang said a $1,200 stipend for housing and living expenses might be cut to $600 due to winter break.
The Collegiate Veterans Society is currently trying to work with the Florida Legislature to amend the bill.
"The main goal of UF's veterans is to get an education," Chang said. "We need to continue to support them."