Thursday, August 20, 2009
During his five years working on hardware and satellites as an Associated Press Systems administrator, Russel Melville had plenty of opportunities to read news copy before it was wired to news outlets across the globe.
Naturally, then, Melville kept abreast of the dramatic events that unfolded in the days following 9/11, and like so many, was moved by the unprecedented attacks on the United States — so much so that he enlisted in the army a month later — and was soon deployed to Afghanistan for a year in 2002.
While working as a reserve in the civil affairs unit, Melville has experienced the psychological impacts of war on his fellow soldiers. After almost eight years in the military, Melville, a staff sergeant, decided to return to school to finish his bachelor’s degree in order to hone his skills in psychology and conflict resolution. Melville, a Psychology major in Rider University’s College of Continuing Studies, currently receives support through a military tuition remission program. Now, Melville is eligible to receive even more assistance.
Through the Yellow Ribbon Program, veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces who have served their country for at least three years following 9/11 can earn their bachelor’s or master’s degrees or professional certificate at Rider University tuition-free.
“When someone joins the service it’s a selfless commitment they make,” Melville said. “This is one way that the government can say this is how we are going to help our soldiers.”
A provision of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, the Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program (Yellow Ribbon Program) allows institutions of higher learning in the United States to voluntarily enter into an agreement with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to fund tuition expenses that exceed the highest public in-state undergraduate tuition rate. The institution can contribute up to 50 percent of those expenses, which will be matched in that amount by the VA. Through these contributions, students will incur no costs for tuition or fees. Veterans also receive a housing allowance and a book allowance as a part of their VA benefits.
“In a way, the Yellow Ribbon Program is a natural extension of our history at Rider University,” said Rider President Mordechai Rozanski. “When Rider opened in 1865, it was focused on educating veterans returning home from the Civil War. Today, we’re helping veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan through the Yellow Ribbon Program, and we are proud to honor our service men and women in this way.”
Melville, a father of two, said pursuing higher education as a reserve is a difficult task because of the costs and uncertainty of multiple deployments. It can take someone in military in Civil Affairs up to eight years to finish their bachelor’s degree because of deployments, he explained.
“To get any type of financial support, you have to jump through a number of hoops. The paperwork can be daunting and discouraging,” Melville said. “The Yellow Ribbon Program helps to streamline that process.”
Melville hopes a psychology degree will not only help him advance in his career, but help his colleagues as well.
“I would love to continue with the military because I think so many of my fellow soldiers need the help,” said Melville, also a civil affairs instructor. “My fellow soldiers are more willing to open up to another soldier than a civilian.”
For more details on the Yellow Ribbon Program, please call the Rider University Office of Admissions at 1-800-257-9026.