Veterans to receive free tuition

April 30, 2009
by Nathan Grossman and Geoffrey Middleberg | Hatchet Staff Writers

Many veterans will not have to pay a penny to attend GW under the Yellow Ribbon Program - a provision of the new GI Bill - University President Steven Knapp announced at an event in Kogan Plaza Tuesday morning.

By participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program, the University will give each veteran about $18,000 per year, an amount that is then doubled by the Department of Veterans Affairs, to cover the remainder of GW tuition that is not covered by the GI Bill. The GI Bill only funds tuition up to the highest in-state tuition at a public university.

"With this commitment, we are honoring veterans and showing our commitment to their service," Knapp said.

The Yellow Ribbon Program was created by the Post 9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2008, an update of the original GI Bill first passed at the end of World War II. GW first announced its intent to participate in the program in March.

Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, said in an interview that the University will try to cover every student who is eligible. About 300 veterans on campus are covered by the GI Bill, many of whom will be eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program.

"We hope this will be attractive to service members who are interested in GW," said Chernak, who attended college under the original GI Bill. "I think the University made the right decision in its patriotic approach to this program.

The commitment is estimated to cost the University $2.5 million over the next academic year, but Chernak stressed that the number is preliminary and could change based on the program's popularity.

On Tuesday, Knapp was joined by former Sen. John Warner, R-Va., and Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth, a GW alumna who lost both her legs while serving in Iraq. Warner told the crowd he took a class at GW under the benefits of the GI Bill after serving in the Korean War.

"I am here for a simple purpose, to say thank you," Warner said.

Warner singled out several senators for their work on the GI Bill, including the author of the legislation Jim Webb, D-Va., and GW alumnus and decorated World War II veteran, Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii.

Duckworth, who received a master's degree in international affairs in 1991, recalled how she was first inspired to join the military.

"When I was a student at GW, a lot of my friends were veterans and I was amazed by their love for this nation," she said. "These friends urged me to take an ROTC class and this class inspired me to want to serve our country."

Graduate student veterans will not receive fully covered tuition, and instead will receive $3,800 toward tuition under the Yellow Ribbon Program. The University estimates that when the base assistance of the GI Bill is taken into account, veterans enrolled in graduate programs will get an average tuition discount of 55 percent.

Junior Brian Hawthorne, a founding member of GW Veterans, said he was pleased by the news.

"Today's announcement ensures that veterans will be able to get a quality education here at GW," he said.

A number of universities, including Columbia, Amherst and smaller colleges like Briar Cliff University and Knox College, have also announced that they will participate in the program. The deadline for participation is May 15.

Although universities can decide how much tuition aid to offer, every school that has announced thus far has offered to pay half tuition, effectively covering the entire cost when the donation from the VA is taken into account.