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'Mini GI Bill' launched to assist returning veterans

May 2, 2007

KALAMAZOO--U.S. military veterans leaving active duty will get a financial break to enroll in college, thanks to a tuition assistance program at Western Michigan University that will support new or returning students who are veterans during their first semester on campus and offer them in-state tuition rates.

WMU's Returning Veterans Tuition Assistance Program is an effort initiated by the University's trustees and adopted by the WMU board when it met April 27. The program is designed to help veterans from across the country by allowing them to enroll and begin college coursework while they wait for their Veterans Administration benefits to begin. After an initial semester of tuition assistance, those enrolling through the program will pay in-state tuition rates.

"We wanted to find a way to thank our veterans and help them make a quick transition to college life," says Dan Pero, chair of the WMU Board of Trustees. "We looked at several options, and this is the one that will be most effective in supporting veterans as they begin school. The tuition assistance will head off the kind of cash flow problems that are typical and often delay newly discharged servicemen and women from enrolling in school and moving ahead with their career plans."

The program will cover tuition not covered by the other tuition specific programs for which some veterans are eligible. Those include tuition assistance provided through Reserve Officer Training Corps, the State Education Reimbursement Program or the Army College Educational Benefits. Students must be eligible for VA benefits, which are expected to pick up tuition costs in subsequent semesters.

To be eligible for the program, students must be discharged or released from active duty for purposes other than training within six months of the beginning of the semester. Those eligible may receive tuition assistance for only one semester. Open to returning veterans from any state, those who enroll at WMU will be classified as Michigan residents for tuition purposes after their first semester.

According to Mark Delorey, WMU director of financial aid and scholarships, new or returning students often are discharged from the military and ready to begin their studies but, because their VA benefits have not yet begun or they are in the first month or two of receiving such benefits, the veterans are not able to cover both tuition and living expenses.

"This creates a cash flow problem, and they have difficulties paying their first semester bill," he says. "That's a significant burden on returning veterans and one that is just not necessary. The Returning Veterans Tuition Assistance program is designed to get them in the classroom as quickly as they want to be."

Delorey says earlier WMU military assistance programs duplicated benefits veterans received through other initiatives and kicked in only after students were able to enroll by using their VA benefits.

"This approach makes more sense and will be more effective in providing the kind of help veterans really need," he says.

For more information about the benefit, contact Mark Delorey at mark.delorey@wmich.edu or (269) 387-6037.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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