Colleges support bigger GI bill

Local colleges are stepping up their financial aid commitments, expecting an influx of veterans unde
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Local colleges are stepping up their financial aid commitments, expecting an influx of veterans under a new GI bill.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill, which took effect Saturday, allows veterans to qualify for a grant equaling the maximum in-state tuition and fees at a public college. For New York, that is $12,697. The returning veterans are also eligible for a housing allowance.

Veterans with at least 90 days of service in the military or those discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days qualify. The grant program is know as “Yellow Ribbon” or more formally as Chapter 33.

Some colleges are going above the basic grant amount. Union College is exceeding the amount with its offer of two full-tuition scholarships of $29,970 apiece, according to Matt Malatesta, vice president for admissions.

Malatesta said college officials realized that Union is expensive and they wanted to offer generous financial aid.

“We didn’t want to go halfway with our commitment.” He added that he does not know what the demand will be.

RPI is also offering more, up to $15,000 per qualified veteran, according to Raymond Lutzky, director of outreach in the admissions office. The Department of Veterans Affairs will match that amount.

“The intention is to make the cost as close to zero for a veteran who wants to attend undergraduate or graduate education at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute,” Lutzky said.

RPI is setting aside 20 slots, which Lutzky said will be sufficient to accommodate the demand. About 10 students will be attending in the fall. He expects to increase that number in the following year.

Lutzky said RPI officials determined they wanted to support this initiative even before Congress had determined the shape of the final legislation. It signed an agreement with the Department of Veterans Affairs in March. The college put the information on its Web site, and he has already been receiving calls from soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and all over the world about the program.

“We have a long history at Rensselaer in supporting the military — going back to the Civil War,” he said.

Veterans must meet academic requirements. Lutzky said it is possible for people on active duty to take a standardized test such as the SAT.

Siena College Registrar James Serbalik said the college has committed to assisting up to 25 students per year.

“This is one of those situations that will grow over time since only vets who have had a minimum of 30 days active duty since 9/11 are eligible — so when the GIs return from Iraq and Afghanistan, there is an anticipated surge in Chapter 33/Yellow Ribbon activity,” he said in an e-mail.

University at Albany spokesman Karl Luntta said he did not see significant changes in the number of veterans applying to the school. “We’re ready for any possible increase.”

The university’s policy is that all staff members who interact with veterans are expected to be their counselor throughout the process.

The grant is especially a boon for veterans seeking to attend schools where tuition is more inexpensive, such as The College of Saint Rose.

“The tuition will be paid by the Veterans Association under this new GI bill,” said Registrar Judith Kelly.

The school usually averages about 35 veteran students per year. They have about 20 veterans enrolled, but she did not know how many additional ones would be added as a result of this program.

She was a Navy nurse in her former life and encouraged people to apply.

“Having been a veteran, it’s very near and dear to my heart.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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