Fordham continues to be a leader in supporting students who are veterans, announcing its continued commitment to full participation in the Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program. The program is an optional provision of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which went into effect in August of 2009 and is considered the most comprehensive expansion of veteran education benefits since World War II.
Under the Yellow Ribbon Program, colleges and universities can fund up to 50 percent of tuition and fees not covered by the basic GI Bill. The Department of Veterans Affairs will then match the school’s contribution. Fordham was one of the first universities in the country to commit to participating in the program at the highest level. The University’s renewed commitment comes at a crucial time, as amendments to the GI Bill in January of 2011 introduced a national cap on VA benefits in order to create conformity across all states; this reduces benefits in some states like New York, particularly impacting students at private institutions with higher costs of education.
Despite the increased costs to the University, Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, is steadfast in keeping Fordham at its current participation level, ensuring continued full support for both current and new students or their dependents. “Fordham University supports the Yellow Ribbon Program, and will continue to support it, simply because it is the right thing to do,” Father McShane said. “Given that hundreds of thousands of young veterans have already reentered civilian life, and that many more will follow in the coming decade, the least we can do is ensure that they have access to an education that helps afford them lives of dignity and purpose,” he said.
Steve Moylan, a first-year finance student in the Graduate School of Business Administration, is one of the veterans who has benefited from the program. Moylan spent four years in the Marine Corps, during which time he served one seven-month tour of duty in Iraq as a platoon commander and another seven-month tour in Afghanistan as a company executive officer. Fordham’s participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program was one of the things that cemented his decision to attend the University, he said. For Moylan, it’s one of the assets that help make Fordham “the most attractive option for veterans” in New York City. Learning that changes had been made to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Moylan said he wasn’t worried. “I knew that Fordham was going to do the right thing. They have a commitment to doing right by the Program,” he said.
Marco Bongioanni, a student in the Graduate School of Education (GSE), had a similar response to the news. “I knew that Fordham was going to cover us because that’s the kind of school they are,” he said. Bongioanni, who just finished his first year at GSE, served as an officer in the Army from 2001 to January of 2010, and he is now in the Army Reserves. His service has included two tours of duty in Iraq, in 2003 and 2007-2008. After completing his master’s degree, Bongioanni plans to work for the VA as a licensed mental health counselor. Since the inception of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Fordham has seen a dramatic rise in the number of veteran students. According to Michael Gillan, Ph.D., co-chair of the FordhamVets Task Group, before the fall of 2009, there were on average 30 veterans in the University during any given year; but over the past 4 semesters that number has risen to 235 veterans and their family members at the University’s 10 schools across three campuses. Of the total number, approximately 150 vets are eligible for Yellow Ribbon benefits. They have served at least 36 months of active duty after Sept. 11, 2001, or they served 30 continuous days after 9/11 and have been honorably discharged from active duty for a service-related disability.
Now that changes have been made in federal assistance, Gillan foresees that some schools may reduce their financial commitment or lower the number of students they help, or they may opt out of the Yellow Ribbon Program altogether. But veterans at Fordham can rest assured. “Our current students will be covered, and the message to the student veterans who follow them is that Fordham is still in this full bore,” Gillan said. “It’s great to be out front on this again; hopefully other universities will follow. These men and women have certainly earned it.”
Founded in 1841, Fordham is the Jesuit University of New York, offering exceptional education distinguished by the Jesuit tradition.