At this time last year, Jon Heavey SOM ’11 was working as a battalion surgeon in Khadamiyah, a neighborhood in Baghdad. Heavey described the job as partly routine, mixed with “waves of mass causality.”
Heavey, who is still on active duty, is now a student at the MBA for Executives program at the Yale School of Management. But enrolling at Yale would have been difficult for Heavey, whose wife and two children live solely off of his income, if it were not for the newly implemented Post-9/11 GI Bill and the University’s participation in its Yellow Ribbon Program, which provides supplemental aid for veterans.
Under the program — which mostly targets private, out-of-state and graduate schools — the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs matches the amount of aid contributed by universities, allowing participating institutions to attract more students who have served in branches of the military. Yale announced in June that it will participate in the program and provide veterans with $5,000 of financial aid, which the VA will match for a maximum scholarship of $10,000 per student.
“We felt very strongly that we wanted to make a clear institutional statement to show support for these veterans who have given so much to our country,” University Director of Student Financial Services Caesar Storlazzi said.
A WAY TO COME HOME
The Yellow Ribbon Program was established under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which went into effect August 1, to cover the extra cost of tuition and fees for students attending private schools, graduate programs and out of state public universities, Education Service Director for the VA Keith Wilson said. Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill (otherwise known as Chapter 33), the VA pays up to the highest in-state public undergraduate school tuition and fees. At Yale, this means veterans are compensated up to the cost of the University of Connecticut’s tuition and fees, Storlazzi said.
Yale allotted $250,000 to cover 50 veterans across the University, but only 10 students submitted applications for the program as of Aug. 31,Storlazzi said. The decision to allot funding for 50 veterans was based on the University’s “best guess” of how many current and incoming veterans will attend Yale, Storlazzi said, given that such data is not collected.While most of the current veterans are graduate students, Storlazzi predicted that more undergraduates will begin to be covered by the VA benefits in the future since, under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, benefits can be transferred to dependents.
As veteran Jamie Collins ’04 FES ’11 put it, the Yellow Ribbon Program is a “top up or a kicker” for veterans. Without any veterans’ benefits, Collins said, he would have been required to take out a large amount of student loans or rely on Yale’s financial aid.
When Collins, a former managing editor at the News, graduated in 2004, he did not know what he wanted to do with his life. Military service was always a consideration, he said, since his father was also a member of the Coast Guard. After five years serving in search–and–rescue and on ships in Virginia and New York, Collins said he discovered where his true passion lay.
“I got exposed to a lot of marine science and really realized that’s where I wanted to spend my career,” Collins said. And while he applied for other schools at the time, he ended up at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
Without the Yellow Ribbon Program — and even with the help of the Post-9/11 GI Bill — Collins said he would have been roughly $7,000 to $8,000 short on his tuition and fees, which add up to $45,500.
THE POSSIBILITY FOR MORE
While Yale’s adoption of the Yellow Ribbon Program may pull more veterans to campus, some student veterans pointed out that archrival Harvard University can provide a more handsome option.
Tasha Brown LAW ’11, who went into the U.S. Marine Corps straight out of high school and now receives money from the Yellow Ribbon Program under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, noted a caveat to Yale’s adoption of the Yellow Ribbon Program — adding that Harvard University’s program is more inclusive.
Yale’s contribution to the Yellow Ribbon Program covers the entire University while Harvard’s schools — including the college, graduate and professional schools — contribute to the program separately, said Suzanne Day, director of Federal Relations at Harvard. As a result, each school at Harvard is able to cover tuition and fees for each student veteran by making up the individual difference between its own tuition and the highest in-state tuition for undergraduate students, she said. Yale, on the other hand, gives a blanket amount of $5,000 (that will be matched by the VA for a total of $10,000) across the University, regardless of whether the student is enrolling in law school or college, for example.
“I think that it’s probably in Yale’s best interest to do more for veterans,” Brown said. “It’s possible that Yale might miss out on the benefit of veterans in their student body if those veterans are choosing between Yale and Harvard.”
Michael Breen LAW ’11, a student veteran, said the difference in funding gives Yale’s rival Ivy League a competitive advantage. Harvard’s version of the program “seemed like the best way to maximize participation,” Breen said.
But Yale’s decision to contribute a single amount across the campus, Storlazzi said, was one made by all of the schools. He explained that the University may reconsider this decision at the end of the year based on the number of Yale veterans and their distribution across schools.
Still, Brown said, she thinks Yale’s participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program is a positive move for veterans.
“A student is more likely to choose a private institution if they know that the cost of that institution will be off somewhat by the Yellow Ribbon Program,” she said.
Of the participating colleges in the country, 750 are private nonprofit, 254 are for-profit, and 161 are public, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.