To the Editor:
I am a graduate student in the MSW Program, and I am an out-of-state student. I pay for school using the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which used to cover my full tuition. Because of some changes in the bill, it now only pays for a little more than half of the $11,358.32 per semester that I owe. According to Financial Aid, over the course of two years, it would cost me roughly $17,000 out of my own pocket to attend my program. I am being forced to take a loan out to pay my tuition, when veterans using the GI Bill in every other state school in Pennsylvania are using the Yellow Ribbon Program. Not to mention that there will be no direct loans available to graduate students come 2012 because of the changes in the federal budget.
If I do not receive the Yellow Ribbon funding and I cannot afford it, I will have wasted half of my remaining GI Bill benefits, which are paid directly to the school. Currently, I have 15 months and 25 days worth of benefits, which will cover my entire two years of full-time classes. If I have to leave the program after a year or even a semester – I will have wasted a very precious resource that I gave six years of my life to receive. My entire purpose for joining the army and fighting for two years in Iraq was to earn an opportunity to finish my BA and an MSW. I have worked long and hard to reach these goals, and I need help to finish them: help that already exists and that I am entitled to! I’ll say it again: The Yellow Ribbon Program was adopted by nearly every state school in the State of Pennsylvania. West Chester needs to get on board NOW. I have contacted President Weisenstein, Assistant Vice President Santivasci, and others, but they have not shown any sign of movement on this issue.
Dana Parker from Financial Aid and Lawrence Davidson from the Veterans Center seem to be the only ones advocating for me, but cannot make things happen alone. I may be the first one who has ever asked for the Yellow Ribbon Fund, but I assure you that I will not be the last. Each day, there are many new veterans coming home from war and going to college. In situations like my own, they are going to need more than what the VA is able to provide.
Please help me promote the adoption of the Yellow Ribbon Program at West Chester University.
–Ray Facundo, graduate student at West Chester University