Yellow Ribbon Program Helps More Military Veterans Attend Columbia

Jan. 10, 2010Bookmark and Share

(Editor's note: This story and video on military veterans at Columbia was originally published on Sept. 16, 2009.)

Columbia faculty, staff and students discuss the University's participation in the Yellow Ribbon GI Program. (4:46)
In a ceremony held at Columbia University's Faculty House on Sept. 10, student and alumni veterans, military service members and University officials gathered to celebrate Columbia’s participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program, part of a new federal initiative that makes private universities like Columbia more financially accessible to student-veterans. A provision of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, the program took effect Aug. 1, 2009 and has the potential to offer the kind of broad expansion of educational opportunity generated by the original GI Bill of 1944, which first provided college or vocational education for World War II veterans.

Fourteen Columbia schools are participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program, including the School of General Studies, which was originally established in 1947 to meet the needs of veterans returning from World War II. In the past few months, with the implementation of the new program, Columbia’s student-veteran population has grown from 96 to approximately 210 students, including more than 55 students in General Studies. Columbia’s active engagement in the Yellow Ribbon program has also been noted in the national media, including Newsweek and USA Today.

“What is wonderful about the Yellow Ribbon Program,” said Peter Awn, dean of the School of General Studies, “is that it is an extraordinary echo of the original GI Bill. And Columbia really, I think because of its history, embraced the Yellow Ribbon Program from the beginning.”
“There is no doubt today’s veterans are paying a heavy price for their duty,” said Frank R. Lautenberg (BUS’49), U.S. Senator for New Jersey and a World War II veteran who attended Columbia Business School on the GI Bill.  Speaking at the Sept. 10 Faculty House event, Lautenberg said he believes the Yellow Ribbon Program will help pave the way for a new “greatest generation” of leaders.
Former U.S. Marine Corps Corporal and current School of General Studies student Brendan Rooney believes that the University’s participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program is a demonstration of its desire “to give back to the veterans.”
“They want to give back by challenging you in the classroom,” said Rooney, “and they’re giving back by saying, we want to take care of the rest of your financial bill. And that’s amazing. It makes it a lot easier for people like myself to be able to attend this prestigious university.”
Rooney, originally from Orange County, California, spent his four years of Marine service at California’s Camp Pendleton and the Twentynine Palms Base, as well as in the Middle East. After taking a year-long leave of absence for financial reasons, Rooney is able to return to school this fall because of the generous benefits from the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Yellow Ribbon Program. Now he is studying political science and international relations at the School of General Studies with hopes of entering the world of politics. 
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