ST. CHARLES - Beginning next year, veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces will have easier access to higher education. But, effective immediately, the U.S. military will have a tremendous new recruiting tool. Monday, U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Batavia, delivered this news to a small gathering of war veterans at the St. Charles Veterans of Foreign Wars Post, lauding the recent passage of the so-called 21st Century GI Bill. “Right after we have celebrated our independence for the 232nd time, we have a chance to honor and give back to the men and women who make sure we keep on having Independence Days,” Foster said. Promoted by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Virginia, and signed into law by President Bush late last month, the GI Bill enhances college tuition benefits to active-duty service personnel who have served since Sept. 11, 2001. For veterans who have served at least three years, the bill guarantees that the federal government will fund 100 percent of tuition costs at public, in-state colleges and universities and 50 percent of private school tuition. Veterans who served less than three years can also receive lesser benefits on a graduated scale, beginning at 40 percent of tuition and fees for at least 90 days of consecutive active duty service. The bill also grants money for all fees, a new monthly housing stipend and $1,000 a year for books and supplies. Under a new provision, the benefits also can be transferred to spouses and children of veterans, provided that the veterans have served at least 10 years and have elected not to use the benefits for themselves. The GI benefits provisions were included as part of a larger package designed to fund the U.S. military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill had won the backing of many of America's leading veterans organizations, including the VFW, American Legion, AmVets and others. Foster said he was proud to have been among “the overwhelming bipartisan majority” that supported the bill. He said the GI Bill will serve as a good investment in the country, as the money paid for tuition will be repaid by way of higher salaries for veterans, and thus, enhanced tax revenues. “This is an investment that government turns a profit on,” Foster said. And, Foster noted, the enhanced benefits would help the military meet recruiting goals. Veterans in attendance applauded the new GI Bill. But they also asked Foster if more benefits for older veterans might be forthcoming, as well. Foster would not commit to any further benefit enhancements. But he pledged that he would support veterans' causes.