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Yellow Ribbon Program set to help U.S. veterans pay tuition

Out-of-state students with full-eligibility to receive the veterans’ benefits of the Post-9/11 GI Bill will find college costs more manageable this fall. This is the result of University of Massachusetts’ decision to join the Veterans Administration’s Yellow Ribbon Program.

The formal title of the Yellow Ribbon Program is the Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program, and it is a new provision of the Post-9/11 GI Bill that offers educational and financial assistance to qualifying veterans.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Yellow Ribbon Program will grant veterans money to pay tuition expenses that exceed the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition rate.

Like all other universities participating in this program, UMass will be responsible for paying up to 50 percent of the excess expenses described above, and then to defray the cost further, the Veterans Administration will match the amount the university covers.

The program is an extension of Chapter 33 in the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which promises to cover the highest in-state rate for in-state veterans.

“I think the Yellow Ribbon Program is a great benefit for out-of-state students,” said Eileen Stewart, associate dean of students and head of veterans’ affairs at UMass.

Admittance to this program is on a first-come, first-serve basis, and there is a cap on the number of students that can participate annually.

“It’ll be slow at first,” said Stewart. “I’m guessing there will be under 20 students in the program this first semester.”

Nationwide, the Yellow Ribbon Program can only begin paying for veterans’ tuitions on or after Aug. 1, 2009.

The Veterans’ Affairs website lists that a veteran is only eligible for benefits if he or she meets certain requirements.

An individual interested in participating in the program must have served as an active duty member after Sept. 11, 2001 for at least 36 months total. That is to say, the service did not have to be in constant, consecutive months, but could be split up between months or years.

Also, the individual will qualify for the bill’s benefits if the applicant was “honorably discharged from active duty for a service-connected disability and served 30 continuous days after Sept. 10, 2001.”

UMass students who qualify may begin applying for the program’s benefits. However, they must first apply for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Applications are online and located at http://www.gibill.va.gov/GI_Bill_Info/How_to_Apply.htm.

A complete list of schools offering the Yellow Ribbon Program, along with frequently asked questions and detailed lists about eligibility to transfer benefits onto dependents can be found at www.gibill.va.gov/GI_Bill_Info/CH33/Yellow_ribbon.htm.

Alyssa Creamer can be reached at acreamer@student.umass.edu.

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