If you are a veteran, chances are you can attend East Tennessee State University debt-free, or with very little expense, depending on your benefits.
ETSU administrators announced Thursday the Buc Hero Program, an initiative that allows veterans from other states to receive a tuition discount to attend the university.
“We’re an institution that has historically provided access opportunities and services to veterans,” ETSU President Brian Noland said.
ETSU is already a participating institution in the Yellow Ribbon scholarship program, which is available to veterans who have served at least three years of active duty since Sept. 11, 2001. Those students have their tuition covered fully through matching funds from ETSU and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The new Buc Hero awards will assist veterans who do not qualify for the Yellow Ribbon program.
While any veteran who has served since Sept. 11 is eligible for 100 percent of in-state tuition, out-of-state students who are veterans typically have far less financial assistance, said ETSU Veterans Affairs Coordinator Kevin Flanary.
The Buc Hero Program and an expanded Yellow Ribbon program should relieve much of that gap for out-of-state veterans who wish to attend ETSU.
The number of students who are veterans at ETSU has increased by 300 percent during the past decade, Noland said.
The Yellow Ribbon program previously provided what Flanary characterized as a fair amount of money to veterans.
Now, ETSU offers unlimited Yellow Ribbon scholarships. That means if a veteran lives out of state but wants to go to ETSU, they can move here and attend the institution debt-free.
“ I can’t even tell you how big this is for veterans,” Flanary said. “They’ve earned it. I’m not going to say it’s free or a handout. They’ve earned this benefit. They will come to school debt-free and leave debt-free.”
The unemployment rate for veterans has been around 24 percent, Flanary said. There are many veterans today between the ages of 24 and 30.
“So they’re still in that prime of their life to be working and stuff,” he said. “It’s really unfortunate.”
Right now veterans and dependents at ETSU number 487.
“We’re hoping in the next two to three years to break 750 ... and in five years we’d like to break 1,000.”
ETSU Provost Bert Bach said there are three clear goals for the new Buc Hero Program: Doubling enrollment of veterans during the next five years; to be ranked in top 10 percent of veteran-friendly schools (currently ETSU is in the top 15 percent); and to be recognized as a place that provides exemplary support for veterans.
For more information, call Flanary at 439-6819 or email firstname.lastname@example.org