By Janel Shoun on 5/5/2011
Since 2009, Lipscomb University has participated at the highest level in the Yellow Ribbon Educational Enhancement Program, which is a supplement to the Post 9-11 GI Bill. The program provides tuition assistance to military veterans who have served since Sept. 11, 2001.
Lipscomb is one of the few private universities in the nation offering an undergraduate degree tuition-free or a graduate degree tuition-free or at a greatly reduced cost to eligible military veterans and/or their families through this program.
“To honor the selfless service of military veterans, Lipscomb leadership felt we should do everything in our power to make both an undergraduate and graduate education available to these brave men and women,” said Scott McDowell, vice president of student development, who oversees Lipscomb’s veterans’ liaison office. “So we committed the funds to provide a tuition-free education to military veterans. They have proven they can succeed in the military; now they deserve every opportunity to succeed in the rest of their civilian careers.”
Now, two years later, three military veterans who immediately took advantage of the Yellow Ribbon Program at Lipscomb are trekking out into their civilian careers to experience that success.
April Herrington, an accounting major, and Susannah Leonard, a marketing major, who both served in the U.S. Air Force; and Chase Manning, an English major who served in the U.S. Army, received their degrees at the May 7 commencement ceremony making them Lipscomb's first Yellow Ribbon Program graduates.
All three said that if it were not for the Yellow Ribbon program and Lipscomb’s full participation, they would not have been able to experience a faith-based, private-school education, something that was very important to them.
“I wanted to attend a college that had a good balance between faith and academics,” said Manning, who learned about Lipscomb from his wife, who attended Harding University. “I thought it was really important to integrate the faith in the classroom and to be in that environment, as opposed to a state university. I think Lipscomb was the best fit for me, because it had a very good balance.”
“The Post 9/11 bill was a real blessing. There were several schools I could go to but with Lipscomb being a faith-based environment, that was a positive to me,” said Herrington. “I don’t see Lipscomb as just any other college.”
The university has found this to be a common sentiment among military veterans, who are often looking for a small-class environment, personal relationships with faculty and a faith-based atmosphere.
In the two years since announcing participation in the Yellow Ribbon program and establishing its Office of Veterans Affairs, Lipscomb has enrolled 75 military veterans, established a campus veterans organization and expanded its free-tuition offer to the Master of Business degree and other selected master’s degrees.
In addition, Lipscomb and community partners have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for veteran education through the Operation Yellow Ribbon annual concert and recently announced a partnership with the Sentinels of Freedom Foundation to bring disabled veterans to earn their degree at Lipscomb tuition-free.
The three graduating veterans, who will complete their coursework in August 2011, represent a wide range of the veterans now populating the Lipscomb campus:
April Herrington came to Nashville after seven years in the Air Force as an AWACS radar specialist. Herrington is from Texas, but her husband, Brandon, is from Columbia, Tenn., and the couple felt Middle Tennessee would be a good place to settle.
Herrington earned her accounting degree through Lipscomb’s Adult Degree Program, taking classes at night and working and caring for her 14-month-old daughter Lorelai during the day.
She is now working as Lipscomb’s new VA certifying official, working for the same office that helped her begin her college career at Lipscomb in 2009.
Susannah Leonard’s father is an alumnus of Lipscomb, but she didn’t expect to be able to attend Lipscomb without taking out loans. The Yellow Ribbon Program made it possible for her to attend her father’s alma mater and be close to family while she completed her college career, she said.
Leonard also worked on an AWACS surveillance plane in the Air Force. The Nashville native served for four years. After she completes her coursework in August, she plans to travel in Europe for a time and then attend graduate school.
Chase Manning, a Chattanooga native, served as an intelligence official and linguist in the Army (he speaks Korean), but now he is starting a career with an English major and education minor.
Manning plans to teach high school locally and later head to graduate school in creative writing. His wife works as a nurse at Vanderbilt Medical Center.