May 30, 2011

Local Colleges React to Changes in the Yellow Ribbon Program

Effective August 1, 2011, the Yellow Ribbon program will undergo major changes affecting benefits available to student-veterans enrolled in local colleges and universities.

The Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 effectively simplifies tuition and fee rates for those attending public schools and creates a national maximum for those enrolled in private or foreign postsecondary institutions.

Eligible student-veterans can now look forward to receiving:

  • all public school in-state tuition and fees OR

  • up to $17,500 per academic year for a private school.

Under the Yellow Ribbon Program, institutions voluntarily enter agreements with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to make funds available without additional charge to GI Bill entitlement. Colleges specify both the amount available and total number of students covered by their programs—typically on a first come, first served basis. The VA then matches the agreed-upon amount and makes payments directly to the institution.

For the 2011-12 academic year, colleges and universities have the opportunity to fund tuition expenses exceeding $17,500 per student. For 2010-11, the rate was $7,100.

And the new rules will be huge for some students. For example, thanks to the revised payment schedule, almost all student-veterans in George Washington’s Yellow Ribbon program will be earning their degrees tuition free.

While tuition has been fully covered for undergrad student-veterans at GW since 2009, this fall most GW grad students will also be able to attend the university tuition free. Between the base rate and the maximum amount GW will contribute and the VA will match, grad students will be able to receive a total of up to $27,740 in tuition support—well above the average Columbia College of Arts and Sciences graduate program tuition.

For undergrads, GW will contribute up to $17,500 per student per year, which will be matched by the VA and added to the base rate of up to $17,500 per student per year.

This year, more than 500 student-veterans enrolled at GW, including more than 260 who are taking advantage of the Yellow Ribbon program. In the fall, there will be no cap on the number of graduate Yellow Ribbon students the university will support. There will be a 150-student cap for undergrads—a number well above projected enrollment.

With the implementation of the new GI Bill changes, the George Mason Yellow Ribbon program will provide up to $1000 in contributions on a first come, first served basis to a maximum of 50 out-of-state undergraduate and graduate students (excludes law students), which will be matched by the VA. All in-state students will have their tuition and fees paid in full by the VA.

The VA recently announced a preliminary list of participating programs for 2011-12 and continues to process and update the list as additional institutions sign on.

In Virginia, Bridgewater College, Eastern Mennonite University, Ferrum College, GMU, Marymount University, Shenandoah University, Randolph-Macon College, and VCU are among the schools with active Yellow Ribbon programs. Additionally, Catholic University, GW, Trinity Washington, Goucher, the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, St. John’s College, Hood, and Mount St. Mary’s University have approved programs.

For more information and the complete list of participating institutions, visit the VA website and search for the Yellow Ribbon program.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

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