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Yellow Ribbon Program will allow veterans to attend Columbia College tuition free

The Yellow Ribbon Program, a matching servicemembers' tuition program of the new GI Bill, went into effect August 1, 2009, just in time for fall enrollment. Servicemembers with at least 90 aggregate days of service who were on active duty after Sept. 11, 2001 are eligible for the expanded GI Bill, which essentially pays complete tuition. Eligible servicemembers also are eligible for a housing stipend and a $1,000 book stipend.

The housing stipend varies by location; for Columbia, Mo., it is currently $880 per month.

The Montgomery GI Bill reimbursed veterans for only a portion of tuition costs at private schools. Under the Yellow Ribbon Program of the new bill, tuition at private schools such as Columbia College is covered to a threshold of 50 percent of the highest public in-state tuition. For the state of Missouri, tuition rates are based on those of the University of Missouri. Columbia College has partnered with the VA to split the remaining tuition costs.

Tery Donelson, assistant vice president for enrollment management at Columbia College, called the program the most comprehensive education benefit offered to servicemembers since World War II. "Historically, when a new GI Bill goes into effect, the number of veterans enrolling in college increases," Donelson said. “We are expecting a spike in military learners, and Columbia College, because of its nearly 40 years in educating the military, is uniquely positioned to help these veterans achieve their dream of a college degree."

“The bottom line is that a qualifying veteran is not going to have to pay any tuition or fees to go to Columbia College,” Donelson said.

Columbia College has more than 1,300 veterans enrolled throughout its nationwide system of campuses, which includes facilities on 18 military bases including one in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The college gives servicemembers academic credit for military training and education, meaning servicemembers enter Columbia College with a jump start on their degree.