University to fund full-rides for veterans

May 16, 2011
by Amanda D'Ambra

Veterans who wish to pursue a graduate degree at the University will have their tuition covered because of increased contributions for the 2011-2012 academic year by Veterans Affairs.

With a boost of $10,000 provided in Veterans Affairs base funding, veterans pursuing graduate degrees from GW will be able to receive a maximum of $27,740 in tuition support starting fall 2012.

Established in 2008 with the enactment of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act - part of the GI Bill - the program increased educational benefits available to veterans who wish to pursue college degrees.

Recent changes to the act bring federal funding up from a maximum contribution of $7,100 in the 2010-2011 academic year.

Between monies from Veteran Affairs, the $5,120 contributed by GW and the additional VA 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.

GW's contribution for graduate-level students will remain unchanged for the fall of 2012.

The new federal contribution will be effective for the 2011-2012 academic year. This will apply to incoming graduate students for fall 2011 and also to those who are currently enrolled.

"Above all else, I believe it is important to recognize that those who have served have the opportunity to go anywhere. We want them at GW. We felt it was the right thing to do for that population, and ultimately, it is a great sign that vets are welcome here," Brian Hawthorne, founder and former president of the student organization GW Veterans, said.

Undergraduate students will also benefit from recent changes to the Assistance Act, according to current GW Veterans president Scott Disney.

With these changes, undergraduate student-veterans will be able to receive tuition funding for the entire year, including during summer terms. Previously, the benefits only applied to fall and spring terms.

"Being considered a full-time student during a particular term is a requirement for receiving the monthly housing allowance from the VA. Now veteran undergraduates will be able to attend school year round and maintain their full benefits, all while being able to continue to do so tuition free," Disney said.

There will also no longer be a cap on how many veterans can enroll in the Yellow Ribbon Program as graduate students. Currently, the number of undergraduate student-veterans who can take advantage of the program is limited to 150.

"Previously many veteran graduate students enrolled here with the knowledge that they would have to rely on additional sources of funding to supplement their veterans benefits, which obviously meant accruing high amounts of debts. I think this will result in an increase in the number of veterans who choose to [go] to GW to pursue a graduate degree," Disney said.

Over 500 student-veterans were enrolled in the University for the 2010-2011 academic year. Of those, more than 260 are part of the Yellow Ribbon Program.

"I think the key thing is we really appreciate the commitment from the University," Hawthorne said. "It sends the message that vets, regardless of their background, are welcome in our classrooms."