GI Bill affected by financial crisis

By Tom Philpott: CNJ columnist

The worldwide financial crisis has hit private colleges hard enough that relatively few are likely to participate in the Post-9/11 GI Bill’s “Yellow Ribbon” initiative when it begins this fall, says Keith M. Wilson, director of education service for the Veterans Benefits Administration.

Under the Yellow Ribbon program, private colleges and universities can enter into agreements with the Department of Veterans Affairs to waive up to half of tuition and fees charged above the most costly state-run school. The VA, in turn, will match the waived amount, thereby enhancing school reimbursements and the value of the new GI Bill.

Wilson said he hopes he is wrong about near term prospects for the Yellow Ribbon feature, which is intended to allow academically qualified veterans to attend some of the most prestigious schools in the country.

“Most schools aren’t going to want to do a Yellow Ribbon program … because their finances have been hit too hard in the last couple of months,” Wilson said in phone interview on draft GI Bill regulations.

That, he added, is his personal opinion from informal talks with some private school officials and not official responses returned to VA.

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., who retired this month, insisted last year that the Yellow Ribbon be part of the new GI Bill as a condition for winning his support.