Veteran program grows, payment delays remain

Participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program at GW has grown 12 percent since its inception last fall, but an administrator said Tuesday that tuition payment delays by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs continue to plague the program.

Andrew Sonn, director of customer service initiatives for Student and Academic Support Services, said 20 more veterans have signed onto the Yellow Ribbon Program since last fall, bringing the total enrollment in the program to 161 veterans. But as the veteran population at GW continues to grow, the University has yet to receive tuition payments from the government for roughly 15 percent of student veterans.

The Yellow Ribbon Program lets universities decide what percent of veterans’ tuition they are willing to pay, and the Department of Veterans Affairs then matches that scholarship. At GW, the University pays half tuition for undergraduate veterans enrolled in the program – ensuring a full ride for students – and pays $1,800 for veterans working toward their graduate degree.

In the fall, the University experienced delays in veteran tuition payments from the VA as well – nationally, 90 percent of veterans received delayed payments, according to news reports. And while Sonn said the government has processed tuition payments faster this semester, it has still has not been able to completely keep up with the program’s demand, he said.

Katie Roberts, press secretary for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, confirmed some tuition payments have yet to be made for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

“VA has been notified of approximately 190,000 enrolled students,” Roberts said in an e-mail Wednesday. “Approximately 180,000 of those have been paid.”

Sonn said that the 15 percent of GW Yellow Ribbon participants whose tuition checks have not yet arrived will not be penalized by the University.

“GW will work with student veterans on a case by case basis so any delays in VA payments will not affect the students’ academic endeavors,” Sonn said in an e-mail. “We encourage any student veteran who has questions or is experiencing issues to contact GW’s Office of Veteran Services.”

Brian Hawthorne, president and co-founder of the GW Veterans, said the main focus for student veteran efforts has now turned to negotiating rates for the Yellow Ribbon Program next year. In particular, he said he and other students are now working on getting more funds from the government for graduate students in the Yellow Ribbon Program.

“We have requested an increase in graduate yellow ribbon funding to $5,000 per graduate instead of $1,800 at GW,” Hawthorne said.

Hawthorne said the increase from 141 students in the Yellow Ribbon Program to 161 is a sign that the program is working.

“I think it’s great. I think that GW is making a name for itself as being leaders in the veteran’s education realm,” Hawthorne said. “We’ve been working really hard to make sure that new vets coming in are able to use their benefits and make sure that they are comfortable here and concentrate on class.”

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