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News-Press: Program helps Fla. veterans get college education

Thursday, September 22, 2011

As our military troops return home as a result of the proposed winding down of our presence in both Iraq and Afghanistan, they must be wondering what might be in store for them when they arrive.

Many of our servicemen and -women enrolled into the military directly out of high school and have not had the chance to pursue a college degree. There are boundless opportunities for them in Florida as well as many sources of financial support for the costs associated with pursuing post-secondary educations. Programs like the Yellow Ribbon Program and the revised GI Bill provide necessary funding to help our veterans pursue new opportunities in education.

The YRP program is a provision of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, a policy that administers education benefits for those who served on active duty after Sept. 10, 2001. When tuition costs and fees exceed the funds provided by the Post 9/11 GI Bill, Yellow Ribbon assists eligible, veteran students in avoiding additional out-of-pocket expenses. They have served our country and now our country can assist them in entering a changed lifestyle.

Higher educational institutions elect to participate in the YRP and determine the funds they will make available to eligible veterans. Across Florida, there are a wide array of colleges and universities participating in the YRP, and offering aid for undergraduate and graduate programs, including law school, doctoral programs and online courses. The YRP enables veterans in all stages of their life and educational level to have access to valuable degree programs. Veterans are motivated and highly trained. Florida needs this valuable talent source for our economic development.

The Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida is a statewide association of 29 private, nonprofit colleges and universities and a significant amount of our member institutions participate in YRP, including Ave Maria University in Collier County and Hodges University in Lee County.

Our armed forces make incredible sacrifices for our nation and it is important our lawmakers and education community continue to create avenues that will promote access to learning opportunities for them.

Following the heroic service these brave men and women give to the United States, it is imperative they have the chance to get the education that will help them excel in a competitive workforce. YRP and the GI Bill provide the assistance needed for veterans to gain access to success and to assist Florida in becoming a brighter and more creative state.

Ed H. Moore is president and CEO of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida.

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