Saint Mary’s College was, for the first time, included among a list of 1,220 Military Friendly schools gathered by the G.I. Jobs Magazine, according to a national press release. The list includes the top 15 percent of public and private colleges, universities, vocational and trade schools that “are doing the most to embrace America’s veterans as students.” “This list is especially important now because the Post-9/11 GI Bill has given veterans virtually unlimited financial means to go to school,” Rich McCormack, G.I. Jobs publisher, said in the release. “Veterans can now enroll in any school, provided they’re academically qualified. So schools are clamoring for them like never before. Veterans need a trusted friend to help them decide where to get educated. The Military Friendly Schools list is that trusted friend.” The list is the culmination of research that began last April and included G.I. Jobs polling more than 7,000 schools across the nation. The criteria was developed in cooperation with an Academic Advisory Board whose members include educators from schools such as Carnegie Mellon University, Duquesne University, Colorado State University, Dallas County Community College and Embry Riddle. Members also include Keith Wilson, the director of education service for the Department of Veterans Affairs; Michele Spires, the American Council on Education’s assistant director of military programs; Janet Swandol, associate director for the College Level Examination Program (CLEP); and Derek Blumke, president of Student Veterans of America. “The Military Friendly Schools list is the gold standard in letting veterans know which schools will offer them the greatest opportunity, flexibility and overall experience,” Blumke said. One crucial criterion is financial aid programs offered by the school to veterans. For the second consecutive year, Saint Mary’s is participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program that was created with the passage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The Program provides students with up to $20,000 toward tuition and fees in addition to the benefits they receive as part of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Unlike last year’s limit of five students, Saint Mary’s now accepts an unlimited number of eligible students. The G.I. Jobs profile of Saint Mary’s College also lists the schools offering of scholarships and tuition discounts for military dependents and the ability of military students called to active service to return without penalty under the financial benefits Saint Mary’s offers. In deciding on the top 15 percent of military friendly schools, the board took into account more than the financial aid programs offered to veterans. Other considerations were the schools’ accreditations; credit offered for military service; flexibility given in regards to evening, weekend, online and distance learning courses; and the areas of support for veterans such as full-time veteran counselors, on-campus childcare, advisors on staff to help with career placement and veterans’ clubs. Last year, Saint Mary’s received a $14,999 grant from Operation Diploma — a program designed by Purdue University’s Military Research Institution — in order to develop programs and services to upport student service members and veterans. The money has been used to train student affairs staff to address the unique issues veterans face and develop a peer support network. A spot on the top Military Friendly School list will help promote Saint Mary’s to veteran students and military dependents, which can benefit both women veterans and current Saint Mary’s students. “We believe that women veterans deserve a great educational experience and that Saint Mary’s, with its small classes and engaged faculty, offers that experience,” said Karen Johnson, vice president for student affairs. “In addition, as our other students are interacting with women vets on campus, they will benefit from the great life lessons veterans have and from the leadership skills vets bring to the table.” The list will be available in print in the annual Guide to Military Friendly Schools at the end of September.
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