Above and Beyond the Post-9/11 GI Bill
Spotlight: Small Institutions, from "Business Briefs" department in the December 2010 issue of Business Officer
By Danny Taylor
During the past two years, affording a college education has become an even greater challenge for most students, including military veterans. Heeding advice from Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee to make higher education more affordable, Lipscomb University, Nashville, developed several initiatives designed to increase accessibility and affordability. A veterans' scholar program has proven to be quite popular in just one year's time. For a relatively small investment, we've brought to our campus new and welcome diversity while providing military families much-needed support.
Going Beyond Educational Basics
The Yellow Ribbon Enhancement Program is designed to go beyond the educational benefits administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs via the Post-9/11 GI Bill. With the bill's benefits, based on length of service, a veteran may already be eligible to receive the cost of tuition and fees, not to exceed those of the state's most expensive higher education institution.
Veterans are also entitled to (1) a percentage of monthly housing allowance (paid directly to the veteran) equal to the basic housing allowance payable to a military E-5 with dependents, in the same ZIP code as the school; (2) a yearly book and supplies stipend of up to $1,000 per year (paid to the veteran); and (3) a one-time payment of $500 paid to certain individuals relocating from highly rural areas.
At Lipscomb, for veterans who qualify for 100 percent of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the university has committed to allocate the necessary funds to allow them to earn a tuition-free undergraduate degree. This applies to tuition only, as the VA's housing allowance and books/materials stipend has proven to completely cover those expenses. In addition, Lipscomb offers a number of tuition-free master's programs as well as selected graduate degrees at a greatly reduced tuition rate.
In addition to academic offerings, GI Bill participants may choose from a variety of services specially designed for veterans on campus. Along with the customary Veterans Liaison Office that helps facilitate the transition from military to university life, Lipscomb has established two other initiatives:
- A Student Veterans of America campus chapter with programs that include service opportunities and a social network.
- The Career Development Center, which offers guidance and services designed to facilitate the veteran's transition to the civilian job market. For example, Lipscomb staff created a “military smart book” that translates military jargon into corporate terms.
The Yellow Ribbon Enhancement Program has been positive for both Lipscomb and the veterans we serve since we first offered it in fall 2009, with 21 veterans participating. One year later, 65 veterans are pursuing a tuition-free Lipscomb education. Part of this growth is the result of multiple marketing methods, including Facebook ads; radio and television spots; a partnership with the Fort Campbell, Kentucky, military base; and a daylong campus symposium to raise support for the program.
The program offers Lipscomb a pool of previously untapped potential enrollees whose tuition does not have to be heavily discounted, while it enhances the campus community with new and welcome diversity. It really is a win-win for both Lipscomb and veterans. For more information, visit the Lipscomb Web site.
SUBMITTED BY Danny Taylor, senior vice president, finance and administration, Lipscomb University, Nashville