Veterans enlist at Yale

Jamie Collins ’04 FES ’11 learned from his years of military service that he wanted to pursue marine science. He is now a forestry student.
Jamie Collins ’04 FES ’11 learned from his years of military service that he wanted to pursue marine science. He is now a forestry student. Photo by Esther Zuckerman.

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.

Jamie Collins ’04 FES ’11 spent five years performing search-and-rescue missions after graduating from Yale.
Jamie Collins ’04 FES ’11 spent five years performing search-and-rescue missions after graduating from Yale.

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.


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.


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.


  • John D.

    This is an excellent program. I for one will increase my contribution to Yale to help support this initiative. I’m sure many others would do likewise. This is something that should be highlighted in alumni fund-raising appeals.

    Writing this from Canada, let me also say that if matching funding can be found, it would be a good idea to make provision for veterans of allied forces – especially for countries (such as Britain and Canada) that have taken heavy casualties in the international effort in Afghanistan. This would be in keeping with Yale’s international orientation, and the veterans from different countries would have a lot to share and contribute from different perspectives.

    Teaching and research can benefit greatly from the first-hand experience and perspective of veterans, e.g., on topics such as governance in Afghanistan and what are the merits and drawbacks of different alternatives in terms of involvement.

    Universities in the participating allied countries should also be involved, thereby opening up more opportunities for US veterans.

  • @ YDN

    Thanks for a good article highlighting an important initiative for veterans. Note to Esther – according to the VA’s website, Harvard’s contribution varies, with some providing more than $5000 and others providing less, depending on the funding available in each school. In other words, their program may be more robust for law students but less so for the college. Also, individual schools at Harvard cap the benefit at each individual school instead of setting an overall level.

  • grd’06

    What veteran in thier right mind would want to attend Yale? At one time Yale had a proud and distinguished record of service to the nation’s military services. Now if you’re ROTC you have to go to UConn for drill- no drill on campus. The Law School fights military recruiters tooth and nail. The military is treated with contempt and outright hostility by the majority of the Yale community. The only reason Yale does this is the same reason the Law School has quieted down- money. I for one would advise any veteran anywhere BUT Yale. This article brings the self-serving hypocrisy that exists at Yale to new heights.

  • ’11

    This is entirely untrue. Many of us feel great pride in this country’s military, including those who do not support particular campaigns. The Law School fights military recruiters merely because of the discriminatory nature of the don’t ask, don’t tell policy. It is not out of a lack of respect, but out of solidarity and support for our gay colleagues.

  • Amvets

    The military and Yale, two things that most certainly should not be in the same sentence. Stop the games Yale, the gross majority of people on your campus look down upon veterans and those serving our country proudly. You and your students have been proudly stabbing our veterans in the back with glee since the 60’s. Not one person in my reserve unit would even consider putting the name Yale in the same line of type in regards to a veteran.

  • General Izations

    I have encountered plenty of people who are against some of the specific engagements that our military has undertaken but I’ve not met anyone who looks down on the men and women who serve.

    As Yalies are often considered the future leaders of the world, I think it useful that they debate the application of military power, understanding the pros AND cons therein. One day, when they do take on the leadership roles they’re capable of, they might think more clearly about such issues than several of our more recent politicians, and make us all proud with their informed, carefully considered decisions.


  • Recent Alum

    #6: “I have encountered plenty of people who are against some of the specific engagements that our military has undertaken but I’ve not met anyone who looks down on the men and women who serve.”

    The Yale administration and official Yale policies certainly do, as evidenced by the facts that there is still no ROTC on campus and the Law School goes so far as to bar military recruiters from the same resources granted to private section recruiters. This is beyond shameful.

  • @#7

    You are right, and I stand corrected in a technical sense. However, and maybe this is an issue of semantics, I view the heart of the school as the students here, and I’ve seen nothing but respect from them.

    Now, if I had a nickel for every time the administration did something foolish, I’d have more money than the endowment itself. I don’t equate a stupid shameful decision by the administration (which, yes, the ROTC one is) to be indicative of ‘the people’ of Yale.