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64 schools in Carolinas agree to supplement GI bill

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Monday that 38 colleges and universities in North Carolina and 26 in South Carolina have agreed to help supplement the GI bill and make school more affordable for veterans. WFAE's Julie Rose reports. Under the old GI bill, veterans could get an education for free at most community colleges and state universities. A new version of the bill that takes effect next month now puts graduate programs and private university tuition within reach for veterans. Queens University, Charlotte School of Law and Johnson and Wales University are among the local private schools that have agreed to spend thousands of dollars supplementing GI benefits. The GI Bill will make up any remaining difference to give veterans a free education. Eileen Dills says it's a first for Queens University. "We needed to support the veterans that have done so much to support us and protect us, that this is a way that we could help them pursue their educational dreams," says Dills, who works in student financial services. "And with this particular yellow ribbon program, students will be able to pursue their graduate studies even in our nursing and educational curriculum." Many private universities put a cap on the number of students they will subsidize under the GI bill. Queens University will accept 25 students in the program on a first come, first serve bases. A number of UNC schools have also committed to supplement expenses for veterans beyond what the GI bill covers for grad school or out-of-state tuition. UNC-Charlotte associate provost Kathi Baucom says it's a tough budget year to be making the commitment. "We know that the numbers initially will be relatively small because it's a new program and not every veteran will choose it because they may be better off over another chapter or set of benefits," says Baucom. "And our hope is that our budgets improve." Another key change under the new GI Bill is that students will not have to spend money up front and wait for a reimbursement check from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Instead, the VA will pay the school directly for tuition, and students will get a monthly stipend for other expenses. To quality, a veteran must have served at least 36 months on active duty or at least 30 continuous days before being discharged with a service-related injury. It applies to Nation Guard and Reserves soldiers who meet the active duty requirements.