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Returning Troops Head To Ivy Leagues Despite Cuts To GI Bill

Veterans Ivy League

Posted: 12/21/11 10:53 AM ET

Though recent cuts to the GI Bill have limited their academic options, returning troops are finding ways to offset the exorbitant costs of an Ivy League education.

Up until January, the revamped GI Bill paid for the full tuition at public two- and four-year schools for those who had served for a minimum of three years since Sept. 11, 2001. But recent cuts to that program capped tuition at $17,500, threatening to take away the opportunity to study in the hallowed halls of prestigious institutions, like Columbia University.

Cameron Baker, an Air Force veteran, was already enrolled at Columbia when the cuts were made. He feared that he would have to transfer out.

"I come from a very low socio-economic background," Baker told the Huffington Post back in April. "My family can't afford to help me out. I mean, at this point, I'm the one who's supposed to be helping them out."

Determined to maintain the increased momentum of veteran enrollment, Columbia is continuing to aggressively recruit veterans and increase the amount of financial aid it offers former servicemen and servicewomen, according to CBS.

"When you're putting together a class, and you're thinking about the undergraduate composition, the undergraduate classroom experience, you want a diverse classroom experience," Curtis Rodgers, Columbia's dean of admissions told the news outlet. "And veteran students bring life, career experience, service experience, and that's an important part of the classroom experience."

Of the 1,500 undergraduates at Columbia's School of General Studies program -- which caters to older, nontraditional students -- 210 are veterans, up from 50 three years ago, according to The New York Times.

But Columbia isn't the only Ivy institution taking a heavy interest in veterans. Cornell University has followed Columbia's lead and the two were the only Ivy Leagues to make it to the 2012 list of colleges and universities at MilitaryFriendlySchools.com, according to the Cornell Daily Sun.

"I am committed to making certain this generation of veterans is treated with the respect they deserve given their sacrifice,� Jason Locke, director of undergraduate admissions, told the Cornell Daily Sun.

Thirty-eight students at Cornell have taken advantage of the Yellow Ribbon Program, which supplements the GI Bill, the news outlet reports. But, unlike other universities, Cornell doesn't have a predetermined amount of money it offers, rather each school works individually with its veteran applicants, on a case-by-case basis, to determine their need.

Such funding, veterans say, is critical to enabling them to pursue their dream jobs.

Karim Delgado, who served as a corporal in Southeast Asia for humanitarian relief efforts, initially pursued the military to escape his low-income neighborhood of Carol City, Fla. Now, he's studying educational policy at Columbia so that he may return to that same neighborhood to help teach those in need.

"It's a desperate community at points," Delgado told CBS. "If you wade in it long enough, it becomes you."

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Filed by Eleanor Goldberg  |