New GI Bill to cover tuition entirely at participating schools

Thursday, August 13, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 12:14 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 19, 2009

*Columbia College currently serves 1,300 veterans. A previous version of this story incorrectly reported the number of veterans the college serves.

COLUMBIA — Before Aug. 1, if a veteran wanted to attend a private college, that person would have had to find a way to pay what the GI Bill did not cover. But since the new GI Bill took effect at the beginning of the month, veterans enrolling in Columbia College could see their entire tuition waived. 

Starting in the fall semester, veterans who are eligible for full benefits under the Post 9/11 GI Bill can receive up to $269 per credit hour, said Keila Ferree, senior coordinator for veterans services at Columbia College, which currently serves *1,300 veterans.

To receive benefits from the new provision in the bill, known as the Yellow Ribbon Program, a veteran must complete 36 months of aggregate active duty, Ferree said.

Ramona McAfee, assistant dean for military services, thinks some institutions are anticipating an increase in veteran enrollment of up to 25 percent.

With the Montgomery GI Bill, which has been in place since the end of World War II, veterans would receive their benefits from the VA and then have to pay the college themselves. But with the new program, the tuition costs are paid directly through the school, McAfee said.

A veteran must apply online through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to receive their certificate of eligibility, which must be presented to a participating school.

The Yellow Ribbon Program applies to veterans from all branches of the military and for both part- and full-time students as well as students enrolled in online classes, Ferree said.

In Missouri, other benefits include a housing stipend of $880 per month and a $1,000 book stipend, McAfee said.

Ferree said that the success of the program will be easier to gauge after the fall semester.

"It remains to be seen how many veterans nationwide will take advantage of this bill," McAfee said.

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