There has been a yellow ribbon tied around the old Ambrose Hall oaks, figuratively at least, since 2009.
That's when St. Ambrose became one of the first schools in the United States to join the Yellow Ribbon Program (YRP) offered to returning service men and women in conjunction with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
This effort, led by former Vice President for Advancement, Ed Littig, PhD, and President Joan Lescinski, CSJ, PhD, has placed St. Ambrose University among institutions nationally recognized as "military friendly."
"It has been incredible, " said John Fury, a former United States Marine from Davenport. With a big assist from the YRP, Fury is pursuing his bachelor's in accounting through the university's adult learning program at the 54th Street location in Davenport.
The Yellow Ribbon GI education program was a provision in the Post-9/11 veterans educational act. With in-kind subsidies from participating schools like St. Ambrose, the program means some veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars won't have to pay a dime out-of-pocket to obtain a degree.
"My dad is a Vietnam veteran and had the GI Bill," Fury said. "When I explained the benefits I receive through the Yellow Ribbon Program, he was in awe."
Since becoming an early YRP partner, St. Ambrose has taught other colleges and universities in the region how to participate, said Elizabeth Loveless '96 MBA, director of graduate admissions and services.
St. Ambrose agreed to grant as much as $5,000 toward an undergraduate degree and $2,425 toward a graduate degree for up to 250 eligible veterans. Among the eligibility requirements, veterans must have served 36 months or more since 9/11. The VA matches each SAU grant. Additional VA benefits cover the cost of books and provide a monthly living stipend.
The program supplements the Post 9/11 GI Bill, enabling returning soldiers to take advantage of a private liberal arts education.
Last year, 34 vets made use of the YRP at St. Ambrose and the university has spent $134,600 since the 2009-10 academic year on matching YRP aid, said Julie Haack '03 MBA, director of financial aid.
Fury said a classroom discussion about financial aid with his fellow Ambrosians last year left him feeling a bit sheepish, knowing that most of them do not have the financial benefits that come with military service.
But he didn't get a whiff of resentment from students and staff, who said they see the YRP and GI Bill as a means to repay a serious debt owed to Fury and all veterans.
Fury is grateful in return.
"I volunteered to go over there," he said. "I just felt like service was something I needed to do, especially in a time of war. To come back and have somebody say 'Well, because you sacrificed for us, we'll help you meet your goals,' that means a lot."
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