Is Post-9/11 Education Funding Really Helping Vets? An Econ Professor Wants To Find Out

By Heather Rodriguez, Texas A&M University College of Liberal Arts

Every year, the United States spends over $10 billion on education funding through the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. But are these investments in education helping veterans in the labor market? That’s the question Andrew Barr, a professor from the Department of Economics, wants to answer.

“We can use this money in lots of ways. We could give them bonuses,” he said. “If we can answer if this schooling is helping them in the labor market, we can determine if the money is being used well.”

Barr is also researching how the benefits of schooling vary across types of individuals and educational choices.

Economics professor Andrew Barr.

“For example, would a high-aptitude individual benefit more from enrolling in the local public college or a for-profit chain?” Barr said.

These complicated questions require countless hours of thorough data analysis. Fortunately, Barr recently received the National Academy of Education (NAEd)/Spencer Fellowship, which will give him $70,000 over the next two years and allow him to commit fully to this extensive and impactful research.

According to NAEd President Michael Feuer, “The NAEd/Spencer Fellowship Programs not only promote important research, but also help to develop the careers of scholars who demonstrate great promise for making significant contributions to education.”

Barr’s research is unique in that he is looking at non-traditional students–like veterans—who now comprise nearly half of college enrollment.

“The evidence that does exist tends to focus on traditional students, or students who go directly into college from high school,” he said. “There’s a lot less evidence on people who go to college in their mid-20s or 30s, which is what’s happening with army veterans.”

Barr said he was initially drawn to this research topic while in graduate school, after the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill passed.

“I was already interested in education and the extent to which it helps people,” he said. “People always talk about how education is the great equalizer…but it’s less clear if the education people are getting in their 20s and 30s is as effective.”

Barr said that receiving this fellowship reinforces the importance of his research.

“It’s a great honor in terms of looking at the prior people who have won this fellowship,” Barr said. “It’s humbling.”

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This story by Heather Rodriguez originally appeared on the College of Liberal Arts website.


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