Tuition Promises Fall Short For U.S. Vets

Twenty-eight-year-old Marine Todd Bowers was almost killed by a bullet still lodged in his rifle scope - a constant reminder of how narrowly he escaped death in Iraq.

Home now, he is facing a different challenge: resuming college.

CBS News correspondent Thalia Assuras reports Todd thought his GI benefits would cover the cost.

"I was as surprised as, I think, all of America is," he said. "I hear from a lot of my friends who have not served and even family and they say - well, you served in the military, your college is paid for."

In fact, military recruiting ads virtually promise a college education.

And that's the reason Drew Cameron signed up for the Army. But, currently at the University of Vermont, he says he's struggling financially - and he's bitter.

"It's not the glorious opportunity that I perceived it was and how it was sold to me," Cameron said.

Both men are entitled to financial help under the GI bill, which covered all the costs for World War II veterans.

Almost 8 million vets benefitted. But today, with expenses exploding, the value of the benefit has plummeted.

Attending a public college costs an average of almost $13,000 a year. The GI bill pays about half that amount.


Couric & Co. Blog: A G.I. Bill For The 21st Century?
"Was it a hard decision to say, 'I've got to just stop going to school?'" Assuras asked.

"It was very hard. It was difficult. It was embarrassing," Bowers said.

Todd Bowers says he had to drop out of George Washington University, despite loans and part-time jobs. He's now working with a veterans group to change the GI bill.

It could happen. Momentum, including a rally Tuesday, is building in Congress for a bill that would give the same benefits enjoyed by WWII vets to those who enlisted after Sept. 11, 2001.

"For all the people who have been saying that this is the new Greatest Generation, this is easiest way for all of us to prove that," said Sen. James Webb, D-Va.

Nearly 2 million vets are eligible for the benefit, which would cover tuition at even the most expensive in-state public university - and provides stipends for housing and books.

"We will always be there to answer the call to defend our nation, but we want to make sure our nation is going to be there to defend us," Bowers said.

Bowers says, no matter what, he'll finish what he started.

"I may be 60 years old, but I am going to graduate from this school," he said.

He just hopes his country will fulfill its promises to him.