Mercy College is welcoming returning veterans who want to take advantage of the new G.I. Bill with open arms.
The college has a Veteran Affairs Department that helps returning soldiers form Iraq and Afghanistan get benefits that often entitle them to an education that is virtually free, and living stipend of up to $9,000 per semester, under the new G.I. Bill.
Mercy College, which is located at the Hutchinson Metro Center on 1200 Waters Place, more than tripled enrollment of veterans between its Fall 2008 and Fall 2010 semesters.
The college even goes so far as to file all the necessary paperwork each semester so that students who are veterans can receive their full benefits under the G.I. Bill, an otherwise time consuming process that often results in many eligible applicants not getting what they are entitled to.
“Every day, our military veterans put our country first,” said Andy Person, Mercy College’s director of veterans affairs. “With the G.I. Bill benefits that they earn on active duty we help them put themselves first by pursuing a college degree that in many cases costs nothing.”
Mercy College has been named as an official yellow ribbon school by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and its fully accredited programs stand in stark compared to the many for-profit colleges that Person said sometimes provide fewer services for the same amount of government money.
“Military veterans have a tremendous advantage over the traditional student because they can basically go to college for free, but in order to get money, they need to apply every semester and there is a lot of red tape,” Person said. “The support of the college, helping them to get their checks on time so they can continue to proceed towards graduation, is essential.”
Veterans, who are usually non-traditional students who are over 25-years-old, often have families to care for, and as a result, need flexible day, evening, weekend and online classes, Person said.
One veteran who had high praise for Mercy College’s programs is Bart Rodriguez, a Unites States Marine Corps. veteran who was in the service for eight years. Rodriguez, who is from Webster Avenue and E. 169th Street, started the Mercy Veterans Club as a support group for veterans who come to college as part of a transition back to civilian life.
“It can sometime be difficult because in the military there is always someone giving you an order, and telling you what you need to do next,” said Rodriguez, who is earning a masters degree in school psychology. “When we get out of the military there is no one giving you that order, so I started the Mercy College veterans club to be there for one another as a brotherhood.”
Rodriguez’s wife Arcelis also attends Mercy College where she is seeking a PhD in Physical Therapy.
“Mercy College bends over backwards and recognizes what we have done for this country,” Rodriguez said.