As of this fall, undergraduate student veterans who have completed 24 credits using GI benefits are now offered a new tuition waiver.
Students who have exhausted their four years of the GI Bill benefits now have the option to have their remaining education completely paid for.
As long as a student pursuing their bachelor’s degree has completed at least 24 credits at Western while using their GI Bill benefits, they can qualify for this waiver. The Veteran Services Office will then determine if the student is eligible for another grant as part of the application process.
The new tuition waiver was first proposed over a year ago by Assistant Director of Veteran Services Ann Beck, who questioned how Western could better honor its veterans.
Currently, Western is the first university in Washington state to offer a full 100 percent tuition waiver, as opposed to the 50 percent waiver other schools offer, Beck said.
The GI Bill provides veterans who served in active duty positions with paid tuition and fees, as well as a housing allowance for up to 36 months, according to Military.com.
“If they’ve had to take a lot of remedial courses, if they are in STEM programs or if they’re double majors, it might take longer than the months they get under the GI Bill,” Beck said.
Matt Stevenson is a senior and student veteran. Although he does not need this tuition waiver, he said if he had not carefully planned out his education when he began, it might have been an option.
“It’s going to help a lot of people who have run out of benefits and maybe keep people from dropping out,” Stevenson said.
Stevenson is also president of the Western Veteran Community club on campus. The club is growing increasingly active, offering students a place to build relationships with one another.
“It’s very student-driven,” Beck said. “The students are seeking each other out to have those connections.”
As of fall quarter, there are 183 student veterans, but the Veteran Services Office handles about 385 students total, including dependents, Beck said.
A dependent is the son, daughter or spouse of a veteran.
“It’s going to help a lot of people who have run out of benefits and maybe keep people from dropping out.”
The Veteran Services Office, located in Old Main, offers veterans, dependents and veteran supporters a place to learn more information about what they offer, ask questions and just hangout.
The new tuition waiver will affect about three to five students throughout the year, Beck said.
“We’re not really close to any bases, we’re not where veterans usually wind up,” Beck said. “They usually come because they really like Western or they like the area, so it gives us the chance to really build our community around the resources we have.”
Phil Fox, a student veteran and sophomore, said he was astonished when he found out about the tuition waiver.
The new tuition waiver could appeal to those who have found themselves in an education plan that will take longer than the typical four years, Fox said.
Fox is not completely decided on his major yet and is considering a plan that might involve implementing the new tuition waiver in his future.
Having any additional hope in terms of furthering his education is more than he can ask for, Fox said.
“One thing I want to make sure that I don’t sound like is that I’m not 100 percent grateful for the fact we’re going to have a fair living wage on top of 36 free months of college, that’s nothing to shake a stick at,” Fox said.
Beck said they had tuition waivers previously, but some were outdated. One tuition waiver offered in the past was for veterans of the Vietnam War, but by now most of those people are over the age of 60, and Western already offers an over-60 tuition waiver.
“We’re adjusting more to the current population of veteran students,” Beck said.
The new tuition waiver has received positive responses, both from students who do not qualify, as well as those directly affected.