Expanding Yellow Ribbon

May 12, 2011
Thanks to dramatically increased assistance for graduate students, almost all student-veterans in GW’s Yellow Ribbon Program will be able to earn a degree tuition free.

Tuition has been covered fully for undergraduate student-veterans in the Yellow Ribbon Program at GW since 2009. Starting this fall, most GW graduate students in the program will also be able to attend the university tuition free.

With an increase in the government’s base pay for education benefits for Post 9/11 G.I. Bill recipients, graduate students will receive more than $10,000 extra per academic year to fund their education. Undergraduate student-veterans in the program at GW will continue to receive full tuition coverage.

“This is really great for student-veterans,” said Scott Disney, president of student organization GW Vets. “It will help us stay on course to earn our degrees.”

Through the Yellow Ribbon Program, U.S. colleges and universities have the opportunity to fund tuition expenses that exceed a base amount paid by the government, which is set at a national cap of $17,500 per student for the 2011-12 academic year. For the 2010-11 academic year, the rate was $7,100.

The university contributes up to 50 percent of the additional expenses, an amount that is matched by Veterans Affairs. The university is in the process of signing its annual agreement with the VA that sets the Yellow Ribbon amounts—slated at up to $5,120 for graduate students and $17,500 for undergraduates—for the next academic year.

Between the base rate and the up to $5,120 that will GW contribute and the VA will match, graduate students will be able to receive a total of up to $27,740 in tuition support. The average Columbian College of Arts and Sciences graduate program tuition is $22,230.

For undergraduates, 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.

The university has also reallocated its funding to enable student-veterans to receive Yellow Ribbon tuition benefits during the summer semester. This year-round allocation is particularly important, because it enables student-veterans to maintain their VA housing benefit, which depends on their status as a full-time student, said Mr. Disney.

This year, more than 500 student-veterans are enrolled at GW, including more than 260 who are taking advantage of the Yellow Ribbon Program. About 70 percent of those students are enrolled in graduate programs.

Beginning 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 undergraduate Yellow Ribbon students, a number that is well above the projected undergraduate enrollment.

GW has earned accolades for its commitment to veterans, including being named a top “military friendly” school by GI Jobs magazine and ranked 21 out of 100 colleges—and fourth for private schools—in the Military Times’ “best for vets” college rankings.

Mr. Disney, whose service in the Army included a tour in Afghanistan, is an undergraduate student in Columbian College. He said his experience at GW and with its veterans’ community has been “exceptional.”

A native of suburban Detroit, Mr. Disney was drawn to GW by his desire to study political science in the nation’s capital and the university’s commitment to veterans and the Yellow Ribbon Program.

It’s a commitment that’s also important for veteran and longtime employee Robert Chernak, Ed.D. ’97, senior vice provost and senior vice president for student and academic support services.

“I am very proud to be associated with the George Washington University and support fully our demonstrated institutional commitment to the Yellow Ribbon Program, designed to assist those who have so bravely served our country,” he said.