As recruitment flounders, this small change to GI Bill would make kids ‘flock to the military,’ teen says

As university enrollment and Americans’ confidence in higher education decline, there’s growing support for allowing veterans to use their GI Bill benefits to start a business rather than attend college. Proponents say the policy change could also alleviate the military’s recruiting crisis. “In the past, the GI Bill college tuition grants was the military’s big recruiting magnet. But it didn’t really appeal to me,” 18-year-old Aden Gilbert told Fox News. “My acquaintances and peers, we think that college is very much overrated, and it can really just impede or delay an entrepreneur like myself.” ‘ERODED PATRIOTISM’: TEEN SHARES WHY HE NOW WON’T FOLLOW IN FATHER’S FOOTSTEPS AS MILITARY RECRUITING LAGS Gilbert is the son of a Marine Corps veteran and considered following in his father’s footsteps until recently. He said the proliferation of “woke” ideology in the military prompted his decision as well as his own finances — he started a social media marketing business during his senior year of high school that he says has taken off. “Why would I be taking classes on why America sucks, which is what’s taught in a lot of these colleges now, while my business competition is getting a four-year head start on me? It just doesn’t really make any sense,” Gilbert said. Bipartisan legislation introduced this year would create a pilot program allowing 250 GI Bill-eligible veterans to receive a grant to open their own business or purchase a franchise. The grant would be equivalent to the maximum amount under the GI Bill. The veteran would also be required to participate in an entrepreneurial training program. “Veterans moving into civilian life face a daunting mission in determining the next chapter of their life. Many of them want to pursue higher education, but others want to pursue a different path,” Rep. Ben Cline, who sponsored the bill, told Fox News in an email. WATCH MORE FOX NEWS DIGITAL ORIGINALS HERE “I know a ton of other entrepreneurs and like-minded kids who would flock to the military if that were to pass,” Gilbert said, calling the legislation a “no-brainer way to end the recruiting crisis.” The military is struggling to fill its ranks as young people like Gilbert forgo service. Military officials blame a competitive job market and a dwindling pool of qualified applicants. Only 9% of young Americans are interested in serving their country, according to the Department of Defense. College enrollment has also suffered a decline since 2012, and recent polling by Gallup shows Americans’ confidence in higher education is waning. “The youth of this era is not as interested in college,” Jason Gilbert, Aden’s dad, told Fox News. “They don’t see the benefit that we have in past generations. The return on investment isn’t there. It costs more and they get less, and the youth today are far more entrepreneurial than generations past.” THE ARMY GAVE THIS OFFICER A FALSE CRIMINAL RECORD, STUNTING HIS CAREER. NOW HE’S GETTING BACKPAY Marine Corps veteran and business owner Kate Monroe told Fox News many young people want to be CEOs. “They don’t necessarily want to do all the work to get there,” Monroe added with a laugh, “but certainly the entrepreneurship is in their heart. So if they could start a business with those funds, that could be another major player in the recruitment crisis.” The pilot program would last three years under the bill. After that, Jason Gilbert hopes legislators pursue a permanent change to the GI Bill. But he expects that will come with pushback from colleges. “After this pilot program is proven successful, I anticipate the university industrial complex will fight like hell to protect their billions in free gravy train money,” he said. Similar bills have been introduced in recent years — including by Cline in 2021 — but all failed to pass both chambers of the legislature. Cline was joined by fellow Republican Rep. Byron Donalds and Democratic Reps. Lou Correa and Chris Pappas in sponsoring the legislation. Cline said he is continuing to “garner support behind the bill, so Veterans have more options to achieve their American dream.”
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