Derrick Group ’14’s four years in the Navy not only prepared him for academic success at Wilson College, but also provided him with benefits that made college much more affordable.
“My life in the Navy was very structured and disciplined. Basically we were busy from sunup to sundown. We were taught to be on time and to always look sharp. The experience refined my discipline and carried over into civilian life,” said Group.
Group, who has received numerous academic accolades , including the John D. Rose Award in Environmental Studies and recognition as a Wilson College Dean’s List student, has also received up to 36 months of free undergraduate and graduate tuition, stipends for books, and monthly allowances for housing for his service in the Navy.
Group and other veterans receive benefits to attend college, graduate school, programs like Wilson’s Teacher Intern Program (TIP) and technical training through the Post 9/11 GI Bill and the VA Yellow Ribbon Program.
According to the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs, the Post 9/11 GI Bill awards veterans who have served at least 90 days since Sept. 11, 2001, money for college or technical programs. The Post 9/11 GI Bill awards veterans money based on the length of their service. Veterans can receive between 40 and 100 percent of the cost to attend their state’s most expensive public college.
Many private colleges, like Wilson College, exceed the cost of the most expensive public college in Pennsylvania. The VA Yellow Ribbon Program, which debuted in 2009, provides additional funding for students who choose to attend private colleges that cost more than their state’s most expensive public college.
Wilson College has participated in the VA Yellow Ribbon Program since 2009. Under the VA Yellow Ribbon Program, private colleges (like Wilson College) pay 50 percent of the remaining cost of tuition that the GI Post 9/11 Bill does not cover, while the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs pays the other 50 percent of the additional cost.
Wilson College has agreed to provide up to 25 students per year with VA Yellow Ribbon Program benefits.
According to Beverly Evans, director of the Adult Degree Program (ADP), some students also receive a $1,000 yearly stipend for books and a monthly stipend for housing.
Linda Brittain, dean of financial aid, said veteran students can also receive Pell grants, private scholarships, ROTC scholarships, and other funding to attend college.
In some cases, students may receive more money in benefits than the total cost to attend Wilson College or other participating institutions.
Some veterans who have served or who have agreed to serve at least ten years may transfer all or a portion of their educational benefits to their children, spouses and/or other dependents.
Brittain says that Wilson College began participating in the VA Yellow Ribbon Program to make college more affordable for military veterans.
“We don’t gain from the decision. Of course we get the veteran student and their tuition,” said Brittain.
Wilson College does not receive any federal stipends, tax benefits or other monetary benefits for participating in the VA Yellow Ribbon Program.
The VA Yellow Ribbon Program affects mostly non-traditional college students who have dedicated years of their life to Army or Navy service before coming back to school. Brittain and Evans said Wilson did not decide to participate in the VA Yellow Ribbon Program to increase male enrollment in Wilson’s traditional-age undergraduate program.
“This has nothing to do with going co-ed. ADP has always been co-ed. We are trying hard to be more affordable to all students. These veterans deserve benefits for their service,” said Evans.
Brittain also mentioned that Wilson hopes that its participation in the VA Yellow Ribbon Program will encourage veterans to come back to school, which she believes will benefit the entire campus community.
“Veterans come with a different set of experiences. Any time you can add a different set of experiences or a new perspective to the classroom, that is a positive thing. Students here will be better for that,” said Brittain.
Edward Wells, chair of the environmental studies program, has noted that his veteran students exhibited a sense of personal responsibility for their academic success.
“They took ownership of their achievements as well as their failures. Those that did not do as well seemed to own up to the fact that they were not working up to their fullest potential,” said Wells.
Group also believes his professors appreciate his sense of personal responsibility.
“I’ve been treated the same I think. It could be my age. But I do think they see me as someone they can kind of depend on,” said Group.