Yellow Ribbon = good news for vets?

Author: Ed Cohen

Yellow Ribbon = good news for vets?

If you’re a post-9/11 military veteran and don’t know about the Yellow Ribbon program, it’s time you learned. This is a great opportunity.

Combined with benefits from the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, Yellow Ribbon could allow you to earn your Notre Dame MBA at little to no cost. Full details about the benefit and how to qualify can be found here at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website, but this is the basic information:

The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill includes a benefit that pays all in-state tuition and fees to attend public universities within your home state. It also pays tuition and fees at private schools but only up to a cap, typically the price of the program at your state university. Private-school programs usually cost more, which leaves vets having to pay the difference.

At least it did, until the Yellow Ribbon program came along in 2008.

The new provision provides funding to offset the additional tuition and fees incurred at participating private universities, including Notre Dame. Upon enrollment, the Yellow Ribbon program pays half of the excess fees, while the school covers the remainder.

The Yellow Ribbon benefit helped Brennan McDonald, a former C-17 cargo-aircraft commander in the U.S. Air Force, earn an MBA from Notre Dame in 2011. He’s now a senior financial analyst for the Walt Disney Co. in Orlando. Combined with a job he held as an assistant rector in an undergraduate residence hall during his second year of the MBA program, he was able to graduate debt-free, he said.

“Any veteran who is considering using their G.I. Bill (benefits) needs to be looking at the Yellow Ribbon program,” he said. “It’s a benefit that’s out there that you’d be crazy not to use.”

The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill also provides up to $1,000 per academic year for books and supplies and a housing allowance of $804 a month (while classes are in session) for individuals or $975 a month if you have dependents.

To qualify for Yellow Ribbon, you can’t be on active duty, and the VA must certify your eligibility at 100 percent based on your service time. Here’s a page where you can apply for VA benefits.

Also, not all universities participate in Yellow Ribbon (the list for 2012-13). And some limit their award amounts, so that even with VA matching funds, you might be left paying partial tuition and fees.  Currently, this is not the case at Notre Dame.  

The Notre Dame MBA has no limit on the number of Yellow Ribbon applicants it will accept.

“Notre Dame’s attitude was kind of like, ‘If you can get into this program and you’re a vet, we’re going to make sure we find every opportunity to help you pay for school,” said Dan Marques, a former U.S. Army Ranger who earned his MBA from Notre Dame last year. Marques is now a manager in sales for McMaster-Carr, an industrial-supplies distributor outside of Chicago.

In addition to participating in programs such as Yellow Ribbon, Notre Dame is known for making students with prior military experience feel welcome. Such students make up about 10 percent of each year’s MBA class. As in the military, the Notre Dame MBA program emphasizes ethics, honor, teamwork and dedication to achieving a greater good.

Current first-year student B.J. O’Neill is a former helicopter pilot and instructor with the Air Force who in his final deployment served as the personal pilot for Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. Army General David Petraeus. He said he first began thinking seriously about applying to the Notre Dame MBA program after he talked with Admissions Director Brian Lohr and some current Notre Dame MBA students with military backgrounds at a Service Academy Career Conference in Savannah. Notre Dame is one of the few MBA programs to recruit at the SACCs.

O’Neill said he likes that Notre Dame’s interest in prior-military students comes from a commitment to diversity and that it carries through to the classroom. He said people are encouraged to share their different experiences and perspectives in class.

“So you don’t feel like it was a handout (the Yellow Ribbon benefit),” he said “It was more like, ‘No, we want you because you have thisthis and this, just like we want this person from China because they have this (kind of experience).’”

Click here to learn more about Notre Dame’s historic commitment to prior-military students and how the program helps ease the transition to civilian careers. You can also contact Military Recruiting Admissions Office LiaisonStefan J. Castino ( with any questions, concerns or to learn more about life at Notre Dame.