AU will join the Yellow Ribbon Program this fall to help veterans pay for undergraduate and graduate education and law school.
The university will fully support four undergraduate veterans during the 2009-2010 academic year, said Financial Aid Director Brian Lee Sang. Eight graduate veterans and four law school veterans will also receive partial support.
The national initiative, a part of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, includes over 700 higher education institutions that agreed to help qualified veterans financially, according to a Department of Veterans Affairs press release.
The maximum benefit under the Post-9/11 GI Bill allows qualified veterans, service members, reservists and National Guard members to receive an undergraduate education at a public, in-state institution for no cost. The Yellow Ribbon Program seeks to fund tuition and expenses at institutions such as AU that exceed the cost of the most expensive public, in-state institutions.
“AU has committed financial resources to support veterans in the Yellow Ribbon Program,” said Special Assistant to the Provost Denise Wilkerson in an e-mail. “We are in the process of creating procedures to manage the program’s complicated administrative process.”
Before agreeing to join, the university monitored the program’s implementation and worked with the Department of Veterans Affairs to clarify its requirements, Wilkerson said.
Veterans who participate in the program must have served at least 36 months on active duty or served 30 continuous days before being discharged due to injuries related to their service, according to the VA statement.
The university hopes to be able to fully support 16 veterans by 2012, Lee Sang said in an e-mail.
“We intend to monitor the program in this initial year with the possibility of expansion in future years, if warranted,” he said.
The money to support the four veterans will be a combination of grant funding from AU and the VA, Lee Sang said. Veterans can also qualify for additional federal aid up to the remaining cost of attendance, he said.
The VA expects a 20 to 25 percent increase in participants in the department’s education programs, according to the statement. Around 460,000 students are projected to participate during the first year.
The only D.C. school that was listed as participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program as of June 17, according to the VA Web site, is George Washington University. The school offers its 240 student participants $18,000 per year for undergraduate studies and $3,800 per year for graduate or doctoral studies.
In addition to joining the Yellow Ribbon Program, AU is exploring other ways help veteran students besides financial support.
“We want to make sure that [veterans] all know about the services available through the Counseling Center, Disability Support Services and Academic Support Center,” said Associate Dean of Students Sara Waldron. “Like many students, they are not familiar with how to ‘navigate the bureaucracy’ of administrative offices.”
The university is looking to identify people on campus who can refer veterans to resources and get them the answers they need, Waldron said.
Many veterans are older than most students, live off-campus and feel out of place, Waldron said. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and physical injuries make college life even more difficult when the shift from active service to attending class and writing papers is enough of a challenge, she said.