Veterans

Attorneys general announce settlement with for-profit college marketer

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In the first result of a multistate investigation into for-profit colleges, state attorneys general announce a settlement -- with a marketing company.

Unregulated for-profits receive big chunk of military spouse tuition aid

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Largely unregulated for-profit vocational colleges, which can't receive federal student aid, collect 40 percent of military spouse tuition benefits.

Veterans-only classes both expanding and closing

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While more colleges create sections only for those with military backgrounds, some institutions move away from that model.

Majority of senators sign letter opposing Defense Department rules

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To win Republican senators' support, letter opposing new Defense Department policies on tuition assistance was changed to eliminate references to for-profit colleges as "subpar" institutions.

How many veterans do elite colleges enroll? Not enough (essay)

From the top of the nation’s most highly selective colleges, Yale has 11 undergraduate veterans, Harvard three, Princeton one, Williams three. Over last year, that’s a leap of five at Yale and two at Williams. Harvard declined to report last year. At a total of 18, that’s four short of 22 needed for one offensive and one defensive squad on a football team.

The 2016 total for my chosen set of 36 highly selective colleges is 645. Irregular reporting by the colleges year to year prevents apples-to-apples comparisons with last year’s total of 643. This 645 is 0.40 percent of the total undergraduate enrollment of about 160,000 at the colleges surveyed.

Critics keep saying I am too hard, too unreasonable to ask more of these selective colleges. Bunker Hill Community College, where I work, and where students are in just their first two full years of college, has more than 400 veterans. Each year, I ask other observers, with far more credibility than mine, what they make of these numbers.

“The dearth of veterans attending elite colleges in this country is a national disgrace,” replied Andrew Bacevich, author, retired U.S. Army colonel, Vietnam veteran and emeritus professor at Boston University. “How ironic that in their emphasis on recruiting a diverse student body, these schools essentially exclude those who have served their country in uniform.” Bacevich lost a son in the Iraq war. (Click here for Bacevich’s Memorial Day 2016 essay in The Boston Globe.)

Columbia University tops the list (see the table below) with 375 in the School of General Studies, where all students take the same courses as at Columbia College. Georgetown, which reaches out to the military in many commendable ways, has 65 undergraduate veterans. After these, the counts fall off a cliff.

Critics -- I’ll get to one -- have urged me to acknowledge progress in a situation that remains unbelievable to me. The three colleges in the Posse Foundation veterans’ program are increasing veteran enrollment. Vassar College grew from 30 to 32, and Dartmouth, one of the first Ivies to recruit veterans at all, from 17 to 23. Wesleyan University in the past four years has increased veteran enrollment from two to 11 to 22 to 30. Stanford undergraduate veteran enrollment has grown from 10 to 16 to 21.

Peter Kiernan, a Marine special operations Afghanistan veteran now studying political science at Columbia, is a founder of the Ivy League Veterans Council, which helps veterans apply to Ivy League colleges. Kiernan contacted me this fall to discuss how to increase veteran enrollment at these colleges. I asked him about the enrollment increases.

“I don’t think single- or double-digit undergraduate veterans at elite schools is praiseworthy or represents any meaningful progress,” Kiernan wrote in an email this week. “Veterans represent 5 percent of the collegiate population in the United States. Over one million students receive the G.I. Bill. Comparatively, the top 50 universities don’t even come close to adequate veteran representation.”

“If we deny the next generation of leaders the chance to meet veterans and to hear what war is like, we deny them knowledge they need to be leaders,” Kiernan continued. “And we deny veterans the opportunity to be those leaders themselves.”

A change in the landscape is the young organizations informing and preparing veterans for college. The Posse Foundation helps find and prepares 10 freshmen a year for Vassar, Wesleyan and Dartmouth. The impressive Warrior-Scholar Project, which I have visited several times, runs summer boot camps to show veterans how to succeed reading Thucydides, Tocqueville and Fukuyama and then writing college-level essays. The first program in 2009 enrolled nine veterans. Enrollment last summer was 224 veterans. Warrior-Scholar reports that 42 percent of its alumni are attending four-year colleges, including those in this survey.

Service to School connects enrolled veterans as coaches for veterans applying to college. Service to School reports working with 600 veterans in 2015-16 and says that more than 100 of those veterans have matriculated to four-year colleges, again, including those in this survey.

Tim Hsia, a Service to School leader who is a 2004 West Point graduate, a Stanford J.D./M.B.A. and a veteran of two deployments totaling 17 months in Mosul, Baghdad and Baqubah, contacted me this fall. Before I wrote this annual column, Hsia wanted to challenge my harsh judgments on selective colleges for doing too little to recruit veterans. Fair enough.

“Wick, at Service to School, we are fans of your annual column and are glad you continue to spotlight the issue of veteran enrollment at elite educational institutions,” Hsia wrote. “In years past, you’ve painted a fire-and-brimstone portrait of veteran enrollment at elite undergraduate programs, and we think that for some schools, this description is misplaced.” Hsia praised Williams, Yale and Cornell for their efforts. I acknowledge that this fall, for the first time, Williams visited Bunker Hill Community College to meet veterans.

I agree the Service to School is an excellent, innovative program. As a graduate of Williams and of Yale, I cannot yet take seriously enrollments of three and 11, respectively, 13 years after the invasion of Baghdad. I do acknowledge, Cornell, which had dropped out of this survey for several years but now enrolls 12 undergraduate veterans, because Cornell alumni for several years have been calling me for advice on what can work for veterans. (Click here to see Cornell’s excellent just-launched military/veterans website.)

Back to me. So what? This effort is what Quakers -- I am one -- call a peace testimony. Every day I wonder what the most highly selective education would be that would prevent generations of graduates of these colleges from creating an America that takes war for granted. Linda Bilmes, Harvard professor, a friend and a Quaker, now calculates the cost of our current wars at $5 trillion. (Click here for Bilmes’s recent article in The Boston Globe.) Two Yale alumni, former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, Princeton graduate and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and former Secretary of State and Stanford provost Condoleezza Rice launched the invasion of Iraq, failing the History 101 skill of evaluating primary sources. Iraq did not have stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. And these distinguished alumni too often send other people’s children to fight and die in these wars.

Back to Kiernan, from the Ivy League Veterans Council, and his belief that future leaders at selective colleges need to meet people who have actually been in a war. Not people who have only sung of arms and the man on paper in The Aeneid. Due to a trivial childhood injury, Vietnam passed me by. I woke up when veterans began appearing in my classes.

A veteran in the first class I taught 10 years ago is now a Dartmouth graduate, teaching at-risk high school students. Another who wanted to be a high school teacher could not complete the semester. He had been an Army Humvee turret gunner. An improvised explosive device had flipped the Humvee on top of this student. Unpredictable medical treatment prevented the student from staying in school.

Another, a young man with a cane, was lucky enough to schedule surgery over the summer. Because of the complexity of surgery, not any fault of doctors, he told me, the surgery did not go well and the veteran could not return to school that fall. Leaving school meant the student lost his G.I. Bill benefits, including the living allowance. The student had local family to live with, or he might have been homeless.

A veteran, a seriously wounded Marine my colleagues and I have worked with for years, is not in school. This veteran had worked successfully in Harvard labs and had made his way to a selective college. Again and again, every time this student was on his feet, stable and able to thrive in his studies, his cell phone rang. Another of his buddies from his Marine unit or from Walter Reed Army Medical Center either was threatening suicide or had committed suicide. Being at Walter Reed, I have learned, indicates serious injury. So far, this student has told me, 20 of his buddies have committed suicide. He texted me yesterday that he is ready to enroll in college again.

I will rest when Yale and Harvard and Princeton and Williams have as many undergraduate veterans as they do freshman and varsity football players.

Note: Inside Higher Ed expanded the survey questions this year, with help from a fantastic research assistant. We will follow up with more columns reporting this additional information. Thanks to all who replied to the survey.

  2013 Expanded 2014 Total 2015 2016
Amherst College 8 5 8 5
Bowdoin College - - - -
Brown U 12 11 10 12
Bryn Mawr College 0 0 0 0
California Inst. of Tech. - - - -
Carleton College 0 0 0 3
Columbia U School of General Studies n/a 360 408 375
Colorado College - - - 3
Cornell U 1 - - 12
Dartmouth College 14 - 17 23
Duke U 1 1 2 0
Georgetown U 25 74 58 65
Harvard U   4   3
Johns Hopkins U 23 19 30 17
Massachusetts
Inst. of Tech.
2 0 1 4
Middlebury College        
Mount Holyoke College 0 2 4 2
Northwestern U 14 19 11 15
Oberlin College 0     0
Pomona College 1 1 1 3
Princeton U 1 1 1 1
Rice U 1 0 0 0
Smith College 0 0 1 2
Stanford U - 10 16 21
Swarthmore College 0 - - 0
Trinity College - 10 4 4
U of Chicago - - - -
U of Pennsylvania 35 35 - -
U of Rochester 16 - - -
Vanderbilt U - - - 1
Vassar College - - 30 32
Washington U in St. Louis 20 21 13 12
Wellesley College 2 2 1 0
Wesleyan U 2 11 22 30
Williams College 0 0 1 3
Yale U 2 3 4 11
Total 180 596 643 641

Wick Sloane is an end user of a most highly selective education. Follow him @WickSloane.

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Three cabinet secretaries urge colleges to support more veterans (essay)

Jeff Bell enrolled in college right out of high school but soon dropped out and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He quickly earned commendations and promotions for his work in the highly sensitive job of keeping U.S. nuclear assets secure. But then he was diagnosed with a medical condition that made him ineligible for his position. He soon left the military and eventually found work as a dealer and then a pit boss at a casino in Arizona. The money was good, but something was missing. He felt adrift.

Nearly two decades later, he learned he was still eligible for military educational benefits and was advised to check out the programs and support for veterans at Arizona State University. There, the Pat Tillman Veterans Center provided him with just what he needed: tutoring, coaching on his writing, help with his benefits and just a place to stop by and get a cup of coffee as he adjusted to studying side by side with students who were more than 20 years younger. He graduated in May at the age of 44, with a biology degree and, thanks to help from center staff, started working the next month in the Santa Fe National Forest as a recreation specialist for the U.S. Forest Service.

America began providing veterans with tuition assistance via the G.I. Bill after World War II. That commitment to help veterans gain the skills and credentials employers want was renewed in 2008 with the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act. To date, that legislation has provided 1.6 million people with a total of $68 billion in education benefits. But over time, we’ve learned that veterans -- who tend to be older, have families, may have a disability or may simply need to brush up on skills they learned in high school -- need more than financial assistance. And some educational institutions are better equipped to meet those needs than others.

That is why, on Nov. 11, in recognition of Veterans Day, President Obama issued a presidential memorandum that directs our agencies to work together to do more to help veterans identify institutions best able to help them, and also to hold colleges accountable for treating veterans, their spouses and eligible family members fairly.

Fulfilling the nation’s promises to its veterans has been a priority for President Obama ever since he took office. At his direction, the Department of Veterans Affairs created the GI Bill Comparison Tool so that veterans could compare the cost and outcomes of different schools. In addition, the Department of Defense began offering workshops to help veterans and their families transition to civilian life and access higher education. And several thousand institutions subscribed to the administration’s principles of excellence, agreeing to avoid misleading recruiting practices and deliver high-quality academic and student support services.

The new memorandum requires us to begin providing college-by-college data on veterans’ student debt and repayment rates. We will seek to expand an apprentice program that allows active-duty service members to obtain credentials and certificates. We also will launch a new pilot program to test the effectiveness of personalized tools and counseling. And, across the administration, we will do more to detect and hold colleges accountable for misleading recruitment practices.

Colleges and universities such as Arizona State University are leading the way. Syracuse University, for example, established the Institute for Veterans and Military Families to focus on social, economic, education and policy issues affecting veterans and their families. San Diego State University’s Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center provides military-affiliated veterans with one-stop shopping. The Troops to Engineers and SERVICE (Success in Engineering for Recent Veterans through Internship and Career Experience) programs at various higher education institutions help veterans earn engineering degrees and secure internships at major companies. Columbia University has a Military in Business Association and offers academic programs designed for veterans.

The administration’s Eight Keys to Veterans’ Success spells out other ways colleges and universities can voluntarily support veterans. Las Positas College in California is one of over 2,100 institutions to endorse the keys. The college maintains a comprehensive Veterans Resource Center that addresses veterans’ academic, career, financial and health-related challenges. (To learn more about the Eight Keys to Veterans’ Success, click on link or e-mail 8keys@ed.gov.)

On this Veterans Day, we must remember that post-9/11 veterans took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States out of a sense of duty and love for country. But they also realized that their service could lead to greater opportunities, including a college degree. One way to thank them for their service is to support them as they pursue their education.

Ashton B. Carter is U.S. secretary of defense. John B. King Jr. is U.S. secretary of education. Robert A. McDonald is U.S. secretary of veterans affairs.

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For-profit opponents continue to fight proposal to expand military base access

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For-profit institutions that cater to service members see chance to connect with students in Senate-passed provision expanding access on military bases.

Where are the veterans at elite colleges, and not? (essay)

From the top, the 2015 undergraduate veteran count U.S. News’s top ranked most highly selective colleges: Yale, four; Harvard, unknown; Princeton, one; Williams, one.

So what? Every day this slap in the face to the potential of men and women who have served the nation in war rolls right down to my door at Bunker Hill Community College (which has about 500 veterans). These are men and women who too often believe the message sent by the top four -- that veterans can’t do the work at selective colleges. I do not tell these men and women they should go to these colleges. I do suggest they take a look. That suggestion is a hard sell. Isn’t a point of education, most highly selective colleges, everyone, to show students how to test their limits?

The big picture here: more than one million veterans have used or are using the 2008 Post-9/11 GI Bill.

More than the most selective salute and follow the big four listed above. The American Association of Community Colleges has no recent or planned programs I could find. AACC President Walter Bumphus did not reply to queries for clarification. The American Council on Education, however, front and center on its web page, has an invitation to a free webinar at 2 p.m. EST tomorrow, “Preparing Military Veterans for Leadership and Success in Higher Education.” The talk is by the leaders of the Warrior-Scholar Project, an astonishing free academic boot camp for veterans that blows the roof off the generally low expectations we, the people, have for low-income students generally.

John Around Him, a Lakota Sioux in my very first section of College Writing I, a U.S. Army veteran who drove a tank in the invasion of Baghdad, handed in a paper I couldn’t improve. I suggested he check out Dartmouth. He has graduated from Dartmouth. He is teaching at-risk high school students, which he once was, just what he wanted to do when he first arrived at Bunker Hill. When he has visited other veterans at Bunker Hill to encourage them, I often ask if he remembers when I first suggested he check out Dartmouth. John smiles and turns to the other veterans. “I do remember,” he says. “I thought Professor Sloane was out of his (expletive deleted) mind.”

The sachems and panjandrums and powers at Yale, Harvard, Princeton and certainly Williams, where I went, seem to agree that I am out of my (expletive deleted) mind. That’s because I keep objecting to their baseless, lazy and continued public slap in the face of all the student veterans I know. And because I object to institutions with tax-free endowments collecting dividends and gains to spend on luxurious buildings while off-loading the harder work, with prejudice, to underfunded public community colleges.

Columbia University’s School of General Studies continues on the good side as the leader in reaching out to veterans. This fall, 408. Read for yourself this essay by one of their student veterans. Georgetown enrolls 58. At Wesleyan University, the number of undergraduate veterans has risen from two to 11 to 22. Wesleyan joined the Posse Foundation Veterans Program, which helps Wesleyan find, prepare and enroll 10 veteran freshmen each fall.

Vassar College, new to the list, was the first selective college to join Posse and now has 30 undergraduate veterans. And Dartmouth, with 17 veterans and always a leader in encouraging undergraduate veterans, will enroll its first Posse in September 2016. The Posse colleges, then, enrolling 10 new veterans each year, will have 40 undergraduate veterans. Keep in mind this year: Yale, four; Harvard, unknown; Princeton, one; and Williams, one.

I can’t say exactly how this year’s total, 643, compares with previous years because this year the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Rochester, Cornell, Harvard, Swarthmore and Oberlin had no answers or declined to reply to many requests. The saddest mystery is that every year so many of the self-described most highly selective colleges have no interest in the number of undergraduate veterans enrolled. Until I ask, almost none have made a count of their own. Penn hasn’t counted and reported that no one would be counting for another week or two.

So what? This lack of interest means at least that most presidents at these most highly selective colleges have no plans to welcome veterans with dinner or a cookout. Most troubling is the possibility that these colleges, then, have no idea if individual veterans need help on the torrent of paperwork to access GI Bill benefits or the obstacles within the VA health system.

Penn and the rest might take a professional-development trip to Rhode Island to visit Brown. The most enthusiastic, forward-thinking statements this year are from Karen McNeil, of Brown's Office of Student Veterans and Commissioning Programs.

“We have 10 undergraduate veteran students, which makes them 0.25% of the student body,” McNeil said in an email. “But, on the bright side, five of those students are new this year, so there is progress being made, and I'm hopeful these numbers will be improving fast and far.” She added a simple IT step that the other colleges surveyed should check out. This year, again, several colleges sent last-minute revisions to their veteran counts. “Our veterans are specially coded in our registrar's computer systems, so we know exactly who they are and can track retention and graduation rates.”

Also new on the landscape this year is the growing numbers of groups working to give veterans the confidence to apply to selective colleges.

Beth Morgan, director of Service to School (S2S), reports that 167 veterans planning to transfer to four-year colleges in 2016 and 2017 have accepted the free admission and application advising S2S offers. S2S advisers in past years have helped 127 veterans win admission to top business schools and eight to top law schools.

“S2S really jumped into the undergraduate space this past admissions cycle because this was an area of great need,” Morgan said in an email. “Helping active-duty service members get into the best school possible to maximize their GI Bill benefits is our mission.” Twenty veterans helped by S2S are undergraduates this fall at colleges including Yale, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Dartmouth, University of Pennsylvania, USC and Columbia, according to Morgan.

Other news this year is the number of veterans who are succeeding in rigorous academic programs. This is evidence to begin a rebuttal of the belief expressed once to me by an Ivy League president: “Veterans can’t do the work.”

At the urging of William Treseder, a Stanford Marine veteran, Stanford added a free, six-credit program -- called Stanford 2 to 4 -- for veterans at community colleges to its summer school. The program immerses veterans in the academic skills required for success in college. Ten veterans, including two from Bunker Hill, attended last summer. This summer, 2016, will be the third summer for the Stanford program. Stanford staff report that veterans are succeeding.

More than 20 undergraduate veterans, too, have succeeded in the nine-week summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Kit Parker, a Harvard professor, U.S. Army major and two-time Afghanistan veteran, runs the labs that host the program. Veterans, many from Bunker Hill, have spent the summer working alongside … students from most highly selective colleges. Harvard has invited all the BHCC veterans to return in the fall to continue working in the labs. With a Harvard postdoc, one co-wrote a paper that they presented at an academic conference. That veteran is studying engineering at Northeastern.

The Posse Foundation Veterans Program, with 50 undergraduate veterans enrolled so far, is succeeding. Catharine Hill, president of Vassar, and Debbie Biall, founder of the Posse Foundation, wondered if the Posse model -- cohorts or posses of about 10 prepared low-income, urban high school students attending a selective college together -- would work for veterans. Vassar this year has three veteran posses -- freshman, sophomore and junior -- and Wesleyan two. (Disclaimer: Hill is a friend, and we have worked together on veterans’ issues.)

“Volunteering to serve in our country's military services shouldn't preclude attending some of our most selective colleges and universities,” said Hill in an email. “These schools offer a superb education, with high graduation rates, for which our veterans should be eligible. We are in our third year of the Posse program, and these students have been a great addition to our student body.”

One hundred veterans over the past three summers have completed the two-week academic boot camp that the Warrior-Scholar Project offers on the campuses of selective colleges. Faculty from the hosting colleges teach the seminars. “We track our graduates,” said the program’s founder, Jesse Reising. “One hundred percent who have completed WSP and started school have stayed in school.” I’ve watched veterans debate Thucydides and de Tocqueville.

I asked the colleges in the survey this year, too, about recognizing Veterans Day. These universities -- Yale, Princeton, Washington University, Brown, Dartmouth, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, Stanford, Chicago -- have substantial ceremonies for Veterans Day. The Princeton ceremony will close with a benediction from the university’s Muslim chaplain. Columbia veterans also have a float in the New York City Veterans Day Parade. The universities do have veterans, often hundreds, as graduate students. (A bachelor’s degree and a good academic record are required for these graduate schools. My interest is in the veterans who have not been to college.)

Trinity College will have “Veterans Day: A Sacred Conversation,” a discussion between the college chaplain and Trinity students who have served in the armed forces. Carleton reported that the chaplain sends an all-campus email inviting students, faculty and staff to light a candle for veterans in the chapel. Williams said it might run a story on the single veteran there on the college web page.

And this year I asked a veteran at one of the most highly selective colleges what he makes of the potential for veterans at these colleges. “I would challenge all of my fellow veterans at every level of education to strive to do one better than where they are at present,” said Chad Rairie, a Marine veteran with two Afghanistan deployments who is vice president of the Dartmouth Undergraduate Veterans Association.

“If veterans are at a junior college, apply to a four-year. If they are at a four-year, apply to transfer to a better one. If you don’t think you will get in, fill out the application anyway. The worst that can happen is someone tells you no,” Rairie said. “But if the rare opportunity should arise where you are accepted to a school like Dartmouth, seize the opportunity and don’t look back! Remember, you miss 100 percent of the shots you never take. So take a shot.”

For next year, I’ll bet then on the applications of 167 veterans in the S2S pipeline, on the 100 alumni from Warrior-Scholar, and on all from Stanford 2 to 4 and the Harvard REU to flood these laggard most highly selective colleges with applications. I’ll hope these applications, packed with evidence that veterans can do the work, may open some doors.

And I’ll close as usual with the invitation to all to read “Dulce et Decorum Est,” the World War I poem by Wilfred Owen.

My hope? That one day those with most highly selective educations will start teaching students to solve problems with solutions that do not send other people’s children to war.

Undergraduate Veterans in Regular Degree Programs

  2013 Expanded 2014 Total 2015
Amherst College 8 5 8
Brown University 12 11 10
Bryn Mawr College 0 0 0
Carleton College 0 0 0
Columbia U School of General Studies n/a 360 408
Cornell University 1    
Dartmouth College 14   17
Duke University 1 1 2
Georgetown 25 74 58
Harvard University   4  
Johns Hopkins University 23 19 30
MIT 2 0 1
Mount Holyoke College 0 2 4
Northwestern University 14 19 11
Oberlin College 0    
Pomona College 1 1 1
Princeton University 1 1 1
Rice University 1 0 0
Smith College 0 0 1
Stanford University   10 16
Swarthmore College 0    
Trinity College   10 4
University of Chicago      
University of Pennsylvania 35 35 0
University of Rochester 16    
Vassar     30
Washington University in St. Louis 20 21 13
Wellesley College 2 2 1
Wesleyan University 2 11 22
Williams College 0 0 1
Yale University 2 3 4
Total 180 596 643
At Columbia, undergraduate veterans attend the School of General Studies. The list this year does not include, then Barnard and Columbia College. The list adds Vassar College.      
Blanks mean an institution did not reply or provide a number.

Wick Sloane, an end user of a selective-college education, writes “The Devil’s Workshop” for Inside Higher Ed. Follow him @WickSloane.

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Army restructures educational system to resemble civilian universities

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The U.S. Army will model its newly consolidated approach to educational programs on traditional higher education, in part to help soldiers get more college credits for their military experience.

VA delays requirement that student veterans receive in-state tuition

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Obama administration gives states and public universities additional six months to comply with federal requirement that they offer in-state rates to veterans -- regardless of residency.

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