May 28, 2012

Support for College-Bound Veterans grows through Yellow Ribbon Program Benefits

Amherst College War Memorial
Over the past year, the Yellow Ribbon Program has made significant improvements in benefits available to student-veterans enrolled in local colleges and universities.

Administered by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Post-9/11 GI Bill provides tuition and fee benefits for those attending public institutions and creates a national maximum for those enrolled in private or foreign postsecondary schools.

Under the terms of the program, eligible student-veterans receive
  • all resident tuition and fees for a public institution
  • the higher of the actual tuition and fees OR $17,500 per academic year for a private school (exceptions exist in Arizona, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas)
Additional provisions may be made when tuition and fee expenses exceed these amounts if a student is attending a private school or an out-of-state public institution.

To accomplish this, the program allows postsecondary institutions to enter into agreements with the VA to fund tuition and fee expenses exceeding the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition rate.  The institution can contribute a specified dollar amount of those expenses and VA will match the institution’s contribution up to a specified limit.

And the “transferability option” under the Post-9/11 GI Bill may allow some service members to transfer unused benefits to spouses or dependent children.

Schools specify both the amount available and total number of Yellow Ribbon 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.

Last year more than 2,600 schools participated in the Yellow Ribbon program.  But according to the VA, the list growing for the 2012-13 academic year and the maximum number of students covered at individual schools is growing as well.

For example, last year George Washington’s Yellow Ribbon undergraduate program was capped at 150 students.  This year, the program has expanded to potentially cover 200 undergrads.  And GW places no limit on the number of graduate students covered by the program.

Here’s how it works for GW undergrads:  A Yellow Ribbon qualified student has tuition expenses of $45,780 and will automatically receive $17,500 as a GI Bill Base Benefit.  This leaves a remaining tuition cost of $28,280.  Under the terms of its agreement with the VA, GW will provide half the balance in Yellow Ribbon Program benefits (up to $18,000) and the VA will match the other half that is equivalent to 50 percent of the remaining net tuition cost (also up to $18,000 for GW students).  In other words, GW undergrads eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program will be able to attend GW without paying anything in tuition and fees.

At George Mason University, all out-of-state undergraduate, graduate, and law students with Yellow Ribbon Program benefits will receive a maximum of $10,000 per academic year ($5000 from Mason plus $5000 from the VA).  And at McDaniel College or Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland, the combination of VA educational benefits and the Yellow Ribbon Program will fully cover any qualified undergrad’s tuition charges.

The VA recently announced the list of participating programs for 2012-13 and continues to process and update the list as additional institutions sign on.

In Virginia, Averett University, Bridgewater College, Christendom College, the College of William & Mary, Eastern Mennonite University, Ferrum College, GMU, Hampden-Sydney College, Hampton University, Hollins University, Liberty University, Lynchburg College, Mary Baldwin College, Marymount University, OldDominion University, Randolph-Macon College, Regent University, Roanoke College, Shenandoah University, Sweet Briar College, the University of Richmond, VCU, Virginia Tech, Virginia Wesleyan College, and Washington & Lee University are among the schools with active Yellow Ribbon programs.

Additionally, American University, Catholic University, Gallaudet University, GW, Georgetown, Trinity Washington, UDC, Goucher, Johns Hopkins, Loyola University of Maryland, McDaniel College, Maryland Institute College of Art, Mount St. Mary’s University, Notre Dame of Maryland, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Stevenson University, St. John’s College, UMUC, and Washington Adventist 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.

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