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More Schools to Offer Veterans Tuition Discount

By Christa Desrets, Lynchburg News Advance

Several [Lynchburg, Va.] area private colleges hope to take advantage of federal money from the recently approved 21st Century GI Bill [Post 9/11 GI Bill] to discount tuition for veterans.

Lynchburg College last week announced a program that would allow eligible veterans to attend the school tuition-free, while Randolph College is in the process of developing a similar plan. Liberty University, which already enrolls about 2,500 veterans (mostly in distance learning) who use GI Bill funding, also is considering program changes.

"A lot of people have really dedicated their lives to service. It's just wonderful to see those people being rewarded in some way," said LC President Kenneth Garren. "I'm really happy that we're doing something, and that the government is doing something for those soldiers."

Starting fall of 2009, 1.5 million veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan can receive federal funding for a designated amount of tuition at approved public and private colleges. The money comes through the 21st Century GI Bill [Post 9/11GI Bill], which Virginia Sen. Jim Webb sponsored and President Bush signed into law on June 30.

The GI Bill will pay up to 100 percent of the highest-priced, in-state tuition rate, Garren said.

A second batch of federal funds comes from the Yellow Ribbon G.I. Education Enhancement Program, which matches any additional discounts the school provides.

Here's an example of how it would work out:

Based on the 2007-08 school year, the initial tuition grant would provide just over $10,000.

According to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, that's how much tuition cost that year at Virginia Military Institute, which had the highest tuition and total mandatory fees of state-supported colleges. At LC, that would cover a bit more than a third of the school's regular tuition of about $27,000.

"We would put up half of that (remaining $17,000)," Garren said, "and the federal government (Yellow Ribbon program) would put up the other half, and make it basically tuition free."

Eligibility is based on final language in the legislation, and a sliding scale offering more assistance to veterans who have served longer.

Randolph College is developing a similar program, spokeswoman Brenda Edson said, but specific details such as the amount the school would discount have not been decided. "We are very excited about this chance to provide our veterans with a much-deserved benefit and say thank you for their sacrifice and service to our country," she wrote in an e-mail.

Emily Foutz, director of military affairs at Liberty, said about 2,300 veterans already are enrolled in the school's distance-learning program. The tuition cost for those students already is covered entirely by the GI Bill, she said. Because many specifics for the new GI Bill have not yet been decided, she said, the school still has to figure out how to work with its roughly 150 residential veteran students.

Full-time tuition for undergraduate resident students is $15,450, according to Liberty's Web site.

Garren called the new GI Bill benefits "a real shot in the arm on the educational front to help people get a college education." He said LC's history was strongly influenced by the GI Bill signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944. After World War II, the college's enrollment tripled, largely because of returning veterans taking advantage of the GI Bill.

One such student was M. Carey Brewer, who later became Lynchburg College's seventh president, serving from 1964 to 1983.

"Due to our family's modest circumstances, my two brothers and I had not planned to attend college," Brewer said in an LC news release. "The GI Bill made it possible for all three of us to graduate from Lynchburg College and go on to highly successful careers. We are eternally grateful."

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