Donald Worthy Jr. served his nation in a time of war. In return, he can finish college free of charge.
This month, the U.S. government is rolling out its most generous educational benefits in generations, providing the opportunity for a free college education to any Iraq or Afghanistan veteran under what is known as the post-9/11 GI Bill.
The benefits are better in Texas than elsewhere. Because of a quirk in the formula, even high-dollar private institutions such as Texas Christian, Southern Methodist and Baylor universities will be fully covered.
"The post-9-11 GI Bill is awesome," said Worthy, a senior at the University of Texas at Arlington and Marine Corps veteran. "I won’t have to accumulate any more debt before I get out of school."
The new law has more in common with the GI Bill used by men who fought at Anzio and Guadalcanal than any version that later generations of veterans knew.
That alone has many supporters excited, as most historians point to the original GI Bill, signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944, as a major factor in the explosion of the home-buying, disposable-income-using middle class in the 1950s.
An estimated 7.8 million World War II veterans used their GI Bill benefits to attend college, including former Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush and a raft of other notables such as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, former Sen. Bob Dole, actor Charles Bronson and writer Joseph Heller.
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