I’ll go farther than that. We want an all-volunteer military with high-quality recruits who will serve out their full terms. We ask young people to put their lives on the line on our behalf so we live our privileged American lives. So let’s give veterans real educational benefits: a year for a year, at any school they can get into, whether it’s cooking school or Harvard, plus one semester of prep or remedial classes, to help close the gap that creeps in because we let the working poor fight our wars. Finally, give all vets preference in college admissions–not a huge leg up, just enough to make educational benefits attractive to young people looking for a way to serve their country and earn their education.
This isn’t outlandish. A Rand report from the late 1990s supports the idea that educational benefits are more cost effective than enlistment bonuses in attracting high-quality candidates who will serve out their commitment. Plus, it’s the right thing to do.
Veterans’ benefits have improved somewhat since I left the Air Force–after eight years of service I had a year of benefits at just over $300 a month, which won’t get you through most schools these days. But today’s benefits aren’t really enough. As long as we have the luxury of an all-volunteer military, let’s show our armed forces “thanks of a grateful nation” and give them benefits that count.