To Tie the Yellow Ribbon?
Inside Higher Ed
May 1, 2009
The deadline for colleges to sign up as Yellow Ribbon institutions has been extended from May 15 to June 15 – and it’s a good thing, too, as many colleges are still grappling with the program's many complexities. Numerous private colleges -- large and small, internationally-known and regional, near and far from military bases -- are signing up, even as others hold back.
Under the new, Post-9/11 GI Bill, and the Yellow Ribbon Program specifically, colleges can enter into dollar-for-dollar matching agreements with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to cover any outstanding tuition and fees above those covered by the base GI Bill benefit, which varies widely across the nation because it is pegged to the highest resident, undergraduate public university charges in each state. Private colleges can enter into Yellow Ribbon agreements to cover all or part of the difference between the base benefit and their charges for up to a specified number of students, but so too can public colleges enter into Yellow Ribbon agreements, to cover the balance for non-resident veterans or those enrolled in more costly graduate programs, like law or business.
“Institutions are having to put a lot of time and thought into navigating their way through the technicalities of the agreement, and trying to figure out how best to serve the veteran population and at the same time balance that with obviously diminishing budgets,” said Jim Selbe, assistant vice president for lifelong learning at the American Council on Education.
"I’m confident that we’re gong to see a significant number of both publics and privates participating in the Yellow Ribbon. The greatest change is that some of those institutions that had hoped to participate to the maximum degree possible [i.e. cover half the gap, with the VA covering the rest] are going to have to limit their participation, at least in the first year," Selbe said.
'A Strong Response'
“Generally speaking, there’s a learning phase that a lot of folks are going through right now because the way the benefit is structured is fundamentally different than anything we’ve structured before. It is specifically tied to the cost of education across the country,” said Keith Wilson, director of the education service at the VA. Wilson declined to discuss specific numbers of colleges that have signed onto the Yellow Ribbon Program so far, but added: “What I can say, though, is we have had a strong response.”
"Small colleges, large colleges, it’s really just been kind of a microcosm of colleges overall that we’re seeing come in so far.”
Among the colleges that have confirmed their plans to participate to Inside Higher Ed are Adelphi, Fordham, Lewis, Nebraska Wesleyan, Ohio Wesleyan and Robert Morris Universities; Rollins and Westminster Colleges, and Rochester Institute of Technology. (The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities has also been maintaining its own, unofficial list of colleges that have publicly announced an intent to participate, available here.)
George Washington University on Monday made a major announcement about its plans to participate, at an estimated cost to the institution of $2.5 million over the next academic year.