When retired Marine Corps Sgt. Jeremy Glenn returned to his hometown of Reno, Nev., after serving four years, he turned his full attention to his education.
“While I was on active duty,” Glenn says, “I completed most of my associate’s degree. And that was mainly through the University of Phoenix.” Under the Montgomery GI Bill then in place, he began to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business online from a four-year school. “It was within the budget,” he says. “But it was kind of lame to me. It just kind of seemed like a little generic business program. I liked economics, but it was all online. I didn’t really have a school life, and I was working. It just wasn’t really doing anything for me. When I moved back home to Reno, I was really looking for a new direction.”
Glenn found his new direction within two hours of his hometown, in the Sierra Nevada foothills: He’s pursuing a degree in public policy at William Jessup University, a small, non-denominational Christian evangelical college in Rocklin, Calif., William Jessup is now also, due to the provisions of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, within reach of many American military veterans.
The law, which went into effect Aug. 1, 2009, expands the education benefits offered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to cover full tuition at the eligible veteran’s highest public in-state undergraduate rate. An additional provision, the Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program, allows degree-granting colleges and universities to voluntarily enter into an agreement with the VA to fund tuition expenses that exceed this rate – in other words, to enable attendance at private colleges and universities, and at graduate programs. The agreement between the institution and the VA is a matching-funds arrangement: The VA will put up whatever the school volunteers toward the veteran’s tuition.
At some institutions – such as Dartmouth University’s Tuck School of Business, which has committed $19,233 per student in the Yellow Ribbon Program – the program enables an unprecedented benefit. With the VA’s matching contribution, the new GI Bill, or Post-9/11 GI Bill, covers the full cost of the school’s annual $47,835 tuition, as well as $4,961 in mandatory fees.
“The response overall to the Yellow Ribbon Program has been strong,” says Keith Wilson, director of the VA’s Education Service. “We have entered into Yellow Ribbon agreements with about 1,200 schools across the country.” By the end of 2009, participating schools had agreed to provide benefits for about 3,500 students. How many students are accepted as Yellow Ribbon participants, and how much of a benefit to offer, is up to individual schools, but many, like the Tuck School of Business, are offering what amounts to a full ride.
Such a generous benefit, of course, is offered more restrictively than the general provisions of the GI Bill – which are available to any service member, active duty, National Guard, or Reserve, with 90 days or more of active service after 9/11. The Yellow Ribbon benefit, Wilson explains, “pays amounts based on the duration of active service. The Yellow Ribbon Program is for individuals who have at least 36 months or more of active service [since 9/11] and qualify at the 100-percent tier. So if a guardsman, for example, only has 90 days of active service, he or she would not qualify for the Yellow Ribbon Program.” To learn more about eligibility and the details of the new law and the Yellow Ribbon provisions, Wilson urges veterans to either visit the Education Service’s Web site or call toll free at 1-888-GIBILL-1.
The new GI Bill and the Yellow Ribbon Program have transformed the educational experience of Glenn, who completed his military service right around the time of the 2008 presidential election. “I was kind of getting in tune with politics and the election, and wanted to head in that direction,” he says. “The public policy program is the highlight at William Jessup. I could have gone to a number of California schools with the G.I. Bill, but the program at William Jessup really stood out to me. And all the people there are pretty awesome. It [the Yellow Ribbon Program] has really enabled me to have the experience I’m having now.”