VA Seeks Estimate of Participation in Yellow Ribbon Program
March 27, 2009
A recent letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs to college and university presidents explains the agreements that VA will enter into with institutions to provide additional grant funding to eligible veterans when tuition and fees exceed the maximum reimbursed under the new GI Bill. Under the Yellow Ribbon program authorized by the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, the VA will match institutional grants dollar-for-dollar to cover the gap between the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition for the state and the tuition and fees charged. In order to estimate the level of participation in the program, and provide information to the public on which institutions intend to participate, VA is asking interested institutions to complete a short survey by February 27.
Institutions may opt to participate in the Yellow Ribbon program, and will be able to specify in advance the extent of institutional support. An institution may stipulate how many eligible students it will cover and the percentage of the gap amount it will fund.
The VA lays out standards for participation in the Yellow Ribbon program in the letter. Most of these conform to those in the December 23 notice of proposed rulemaking. The letter goes a little further than the proposed rules in stipulating that the institution will "provide contributions during the current academic year and all subsequent academic years in which the student maintains satisfactory academic progress, conduct, and attendance according to the regularly prescribed standards of the institution." This may indicate a shift in the VA’s thinking since the proposed rules were written.
These standards and agreements for institutions will not be available in final form until the regulatory process is completed. The deadline for comments on the proposed rules ended January 22, and with the short timeline for getting the program up and running, VA is committed to moving forward quickly. NACUBO raised a few questions about the Yellow Ribbon program in its comments, submitted in conjunction with the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Association of American Universities. In particular, the associations were concerned about: the requirement that institutional contributions take the form of a waiver; whether student need and other resources can be taken into account; and whether institutions may pledge variable levels of support by level of instruction (undergraduate, graduate) or school or program.
The VA survey (included as the last page of the January 12 letter) asks any institution interested in participating in the Yellow Ribbon program to provide the maximum number of individuals it anticipates funding and the percentage to be waived for each. While this is not a binding agreement, the VA does intend to use this information to provide information on the Web for veterans. The VA has committed to having a tentative list of participating institutions available by April 1st.
Anne C. Gross
Vice President Regulatory Affairs
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