RHODE ISLAND S PUBLIC SYSTEM OF HIGHER EDUCATION OPENS ITS DOORS TO VETERANS

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1 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Steven J. Maurano, APR RIBGHE Associate Commissioner/External Affairs office cell RHODE ISLAND S PUBLIC SYSTEM OF HIGHER EDUCATION OPENS ITS DOORS TO VETERANS Commissioner Jack R. Warner joins U.S. Senator Jack Reed and the presidents of URI, RIC and CCRI in extolling the new GI bill; presidents working to make state campuses more hospitable to area veterans PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND, OCTOBER 20, 2008: Rhode Island veterans who have served tours of duty since September 2001, many in recent American conflicts in Afghanistan and the Middle East, deserve the benefits of higher education and the state s public institutions of higher education are committed to assisting their efforts to achieve a degree and providing a place for them. That was the primary theme of a press conference held this morning at the Paff Auditorium of the URI/CCE campus in downtown Providence. The event featured U.S. Senator Jack Reed, State Commissioner of Higher Education Jack R. Warner and the presidents of the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island. Sen. Reed explained the need for and outlined several provisions of the Post 9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2008, also known as the new GI bill or the 21 st Century GI bill. This Act, passed by Congress in late June and signed into law by President George Bush on June 30th, marks a major new federal investment in educational benefits for the country s veterans. My family benefitted from the GI Bill when my father came home from World War II. Today s military men and women deserve a chance to get an education and support their families when they return home from the battlefield," said US Senator Jack Reed, a former Army Captain. "Veterans following World War II were provided education benefits that completely covered the cost of college tuition or training programs. With the passage of the 21st Century GI Bill and the support of our institutions of higher learning here in Rhode Island, we have restored that benefit to current and future generations of veterans, Sen. Reed said. more

2 2 The new bill does not replace the existing Montgomery GI bill, which has been in existence since shortly after World War II. Instead, it enhances many of the benefits under that bill and creates a variety of new ones as well. For example, under the existing Montgomery GI bill, active duty veterans receive anywhere from $1,300 to $1,800 per month for the cost of tuition and books. The new GI bill, which takes effect in August 2009, will provide for the cost of full tuition and fees at any Rhode Island public institution of higher education as well as a monthly housing allowance and an annual $1,000 book stipend. (The average monthly housing allowance nationwide is set at $1,250.) In addition, the new GI bill extends the benefits for fifteen years after service while the Montgomery bill limit is ten years. The benefits of the new GI bill are also transferrable to a veteran s spouse and/or dependents if the veteran serves at least ten years of active duty. There are already over 1,200 veterans and dependents using VA educational benefits in the state of Rhode Island and just about 60% of these individuals are enrolled in the public higher education system said Board of Governors for Higher Education Chairman Frank Caprio. We expect this number will increase significantly beginning in 2009 when the new GI bill takes effect. It is an important priority of the Board to support the success of these veterans at our institutions. Our presence here this morning is meant to be a signal to the many veterans in Rhode Island that we sincerely appreciate your service and that you are wanted and welcome at our state colleges and university, said Commissioner Warner. We have much to offer you and we are committed to making our campuses welcome and hospitable places for you to pursue a degree as you transition from military service to the career of your choice, Warner said. URI established a URI Supports Student Veterans Committee a year ago, said University President Robert L. Carothers. Its membership consists of people from across campus admissions, enrollment services, health services, disability services, chaplains, Veterans Administration, CCE, student affairs, University College, veterans, students, faculty, etc. The committee has looked at a number of issues with the intent of easing the veteran s transition into college by removing any stumbling blocks and supporting him or her while in school. We want to do everything we can to ensure the success of returning veterans, just as we have done after each conflict the nation has endured, Carothers said. more

3 3 Rhode Island College has long been supportive of military veterans as students and as employees, said RIC president Nancy Carriuolo. This summer, Senator Reed joined us at RIC to announce the establishment of a new collaboration between the Veterans Administration and the Rhode Island College School of Nursing. This partnership will help to address the state s nursing shortage as it will help to promote quality health care for the growing number of veterans. In addition, a Student Veterans Association chapter was recently organized on campus to help assist other veterans in the transition to academic life. The new GI Bill that is the focus of today s news conference will be instrumental in extending educational opportunities to those who have made great sacrifices in the defense of freedom. I thank Senator Reed and his colleagues in Washington for their work with veterans organizations to help establish this new benefit for our veterans, Carriuolo said. CCRI President Raymond M. Di Pasquale said, The Community College of Rhode Island is the perfect place for members of the armed services to transition into civilian life. We will be there to assist them every step of the way as they retrain for another field, work toward a degree or certificate or prepare to transfer to a four year institution. Veterans will be well served and welcomed on our campuses as they join more than 420 other student veterans, and they will find a great peer support network in our Student Veterans Clubs, President Di Pasquale said. Also speaking at this morning s event was John Powers, a Rhode Islander and URI graduate ( 07) who is the executive director of Student Veterans of America. Mr. Powers has been working to assist the student veteran organizations on state campuses and he spoke about some of the major issues that veterans face as they return from active duty, seek to enroll in higher education and take their places as members of the state s higher education community. ###

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