U.S. military involvement has ended in Iraq and is ratcheting down in Afghanistan. Now, as veterans return to the United States, they are ready to continue their education.
Colleges and universities in Oklahoma are participating in the Yellow Ribbon program, which allows veterans from across the country to attend schools here at a tuition rate lower than that for traditional out-of-state students.
In many cases, veterans attend these schools at no charge.
Oklahoma has reciprocity agreements with some states allowing veterans to attend its institutions for the same tuition they would pay in their home states, but the Yellow Ribbon program can provide for veterans not covered by those agreements.
Yellow Ribbon makes attending college affordable for veterans through the Post-9/11 GI Bill's Chapter 33 educational benefits, which can apply to up to four years of enrollment as much as 15 years after discharge, said Jennifer Trimmer, veterans student services coordinator for the University of Oklahoma in Norman.
Policies are in place at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater to enroll these nontraditional students and support them through graduation, said Paula Barnes, assistant registrar at OSU.
"Veteran students and their dependents receive the same services as all our nontraditional students," Barnes said. "The veterans benefit services office is dedicated to accurate and timely processing of Department of Veterans Affairs' education benefit paperwork to assist these students in meeting the financial obligations of university attendance."
Veterans are a special group of people, said Paula Page, associate registrar and veteran's coordinator at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah.
"These men and women of the military, as well as their dependents, bring many positive assets and insights with them," Page said. "They are an outstanding inclusion which benefits our other students and our faculty and staff as well."
'They study hard'
Geoffrey Allen of Tulsa is a political science major at the University of Tulsa working on a bachelor of arts degree with a minor in philosophy. Allen, a 1987 graduate of Nathan Hale High School in Tulsa, served in the U.S. Army in the first Iraq war 22 years ago - what was then called Desert Storm and Desert Shield. He left the Army at the rank of Specialist D-4.
Allen is enrolled in a program called "Troops to Teachers" at TU.
It is been invaluable, Allen said. He worked in the private sector after exiting the military, but was laid off about 18 months ago. That was when he decided to return to school for a second career.
"It takes vets with technical skills or a college degree and puts them in a classroom," Allen said. "I've always had a strong sense of giving back and this allows me to do that. It is a great honor being able to attend TU with taxpayer assistance."
Allen will walk across the stage in May for his degree. He wants to be teaching in a high school or middle school this fall.
Allen is one of 86 veterans attending TU through the various programs, said Cindy Watts, TU associate registrar.
"The number of veterans at TU has gone up 72 percent since the new GI Bill was passed," Watts said. "Prior to that, there maybe were 50."
The types of degrees the veterans pursue are across the board, she said, including law, computer science and the university's Cyber Corps, Watts said. The Cyber Corps is a program that trains computer experts to be the first line of defense against cyber-attacks on information systems across the U.S. Most Cyber Corps graduates find jobs within the federal government, many in the National Security Agency, CIA or Department of Defense.
A key difference between vets and the traditional students is maturity and sense of purpose, said Roger N. Blais, TU provost and vice president for academic affairs.
"They know what they want to do; they are focused," he …