Area schools to support vets with new GI Bill

July 9, 2009



Veterans who have served since Sept. 11, 2001, will be eligible for financial support at three Golden Triangle colleges. 


The Post-9/11 GI Bill passed through Congress last year and will go into effect Aug. 1. The bill will provide financial support to veterans who wish to study at the college level around the country. Funding will vary by state.  


In Mississippi, a college or university will charge a veteran no more than $449 per credit hour and no more than $470 in fees per term.  


And through the Yellow Ribbon Program, a provision of the bill, veterans interested in studying at private or out-of-state colleges or universities will be able to do so at the cost of the highest public undergraduate institution in the state. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will match any discount the school provides.  


In the upcoming academic year, up to 10 veterans studying at Mississippi State University may opt to receive up to $25,000 a year through the Yellow Ribbon Program, said Andrew Rendon, director of MSU''s Sonny Montgomery Center for America''s Veterans. 


The late Rep. G.V. Sonny Montgomery, D-Miss., authored the GI Bill of Rights giving members of the armed services money for higher education. 


The university set the number of eligible students at 10 "because we didn''t have any kind of way to project who was going to be participating," Rendon said. "... We just kind of wanted to test the waters and see whether or not this was going to be received well with the students." 


As of now, MSU is the only university among Mississippi''s institutions of higher learning to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program. "We''re kind of proud of that," Rendon said.  


Although local schools Mississippi University for Women and East Mississippi Community College have not decided to become part of the Yellow Ribbon Program, representatives of both schools said they would support veterans through the Post-9/11 GI Bill. 


Gypsy Gray, EMCC''s assistant financial aid director, said she did not expect many of the school''s students to switch from older GI bill funding programs to the new bill''s program.  


"When they look at the benefits of (the Post-9/11 GI Bill) versus the existing or older versions, for a community college student, it usually benefits them to stay with the older program," she said.  


At EMCC, Gray said, a credit hour costs $120 -- more than $300 cheaper than the maximum a student who decides to take part in the new GI bill could get.  


Gray said about 175 veterans currently attend EMCC, and one has decided to be funded with the new GI bill.  


Graduates of EMCC tend to go on to get four-year degrees at schools like MSU and the University of Mississippi, where, Gray acknowledged, the new GI bill might prove more financially rewarding. 


But when veterans enroll at EMCC, the school''s staffers do not decide for students whether to take advantage of the new GI bill or to stick with a previous program, Gray said. "It takes a lot of investigation by the student to determine what his or her best course would be," she said.  


Tammy Prather, MUW''s assistant registrar, said the university will be participating in the GI bill. It has also put in an application to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, to serve out-of-state students especially, but the application has not yet received certification of approval. 


"We support the veterans with 110 percent," she said.