URI prepares to welcome increased number of veterans

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New Post-9/11 G.I. Bill with enhanced benefits takes effect Aug. 1

KINGSTON, R.I.—May 28, 2009 –A new law could help thousands of veterans across the country attend college. The Post 9/11 G.I. Bill will make it possible for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars who otherwise might not have been able to afford college the opportunity to earn a college degree.

The bill contains the most comprehensive educational benefits since the original G.I. Bill in 1944. The bill provides for the cost of in-state undergraduate tuition and fees at any of Rhode Island ‘s public colleges, as well as a housing allowance and up to an annual $1,000 book stipend. The benefits can be used up to 15 years after service. In some cases, they are transferable to a veteran’s spouse and/or dependents.

The Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, which takes effect August 1, is expected to swell enrollments at public schools across the country. The University of Rhode Island is ready to welcome and provide support to returning service members.

Well before the new G.I. Bill was passed, URI put in place a number of initiatives to help returning veterans. Two years ago, the URI Supports Student Veterans Committee, was formed. The committee has a broad representation of faculty, staff, and students from URI’s Kingston and Feinstein Providence campuses, as well as members from federal, state, and local veterans agencies. The committee’s mission is to work to attract, retain, and support student veterans and when necessary make recommendations regarding URI policies and procedures to accomplish this mission. Membership includes representatives from URI’s Enrollment Services, Advising, Admissions, Disability Services, Provost’s Office, Police Department, Counseling Center, ROTC, Health Services, Career Services, Student Life, Department of Communications and Marketing, and student veterans.

The committee has examined a number of issues with the intent of easing the veteran’s transition into college by removing any enrollment roadblocks and then supporting him or her while at URI. First chaired by Fran Cohen, dean of students, the committee is now co-chaired by Nancy Kelley, assistant dean of the College of Human Science and Services and Christine Dolan, education specialist, special programs at URI’s Feinstein Providence Campus and School of Education.

“Nancy and I look forward to another academic year of working with such a diverse group of dedicated and enthusiastic representatives, all of whom have a commitment to support student veterans,” says Dolan.

To date the committee has established or designated:

• Web pages with information for veterans were created and remain active on the Admission (http://www.uri.edu/admission/Veterans.html) and Enrollment Services http://www.uri.edu/es/acadinfo/acadyear/veterans.html) websites.

• A Veterans Office at URI’s Feinstein Providence Campus has opened and is staffed

• Contact individuals from each academic college’s dean office for veterans with questions

• Point people for veterans in the Enrollment and Admission offices

• Point people for veterans in the University Advisor Center, part of University College

• A student-veterans group

• A Veterans Education Fund

• A faculty and staff mentor group

In a related matter, this month the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education approved a change in policy, which grants in-state tuition to veterans of any branch of the armed forces and any branch of the state’s National Guard. The new policy waives the current one-year requirement for veterans or active duty members to establish residency in Rhode Island before they can qualify for in-state tuition rates. The determination of tuition and fees applies to both undergraduate and graduate students. For more information on the policy, go to http://www.ribghe.org/veteranstuition.pdf.

In September, URI’s student-veteran committee will begin work on a number of goals including creating student-veteran orientations for veterans and their families, hiring and training student veterans to serve as peer mentors for other student veterans, and increasing faculty and staff awareness of student-veterans as non-traditional students.

“We earnestly welcome the opportunity to work with all veterans and active duty members to help to make our university the best choice for them to achieve their educational goals,” says Dolan.