By Debbie Gregory.
Adam Behrendt is on a mission. The former U.S. Navy corpsman who enrolled as a transfer student at Stanford University is trying to persuade the university to change some of their policies to make the school more veteran friendly.
Behrendt enlisted in the Navy in 2007, after several years at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, was medically retired from the Navy in March 2015. He applied to Stanford, with the game plan of attending medical school.
Unfortunately, the way Stanford applied the education benefits available through Behrendt’s Post 9/11 GI Bill did not make it financially feasible for his wife to give up her job in Wisconsin and move to California.
Fortunately for Behrendt, he was able to get assistance from Service to School, an organization that helps military veterans apply to and succeed in college. Through his relationship with the non-profit, Behrendt began mentoring other veterans to help them navigate Stanford’s financial aid policies.
Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) provides both tuition assistance and a housing and living allowance to veterans in order for them to pursue postsecondary education.
Stanford charged roughly $72,000 for an undergraduate — $47,000 in tuition, $18,000 in room and board, and about $7,000 for supplies and fees.
Under VA policy at the time, the typical undergraduate veteran at Stanford would be eligible for more than $50,000 — roughly $25,000 in tuition and fees support and another $28,000 toward housing and living expenses.
For veterans who also earned need-based funds from Stanford, the university would apply the entire $53,000 from the VA, and reduce its own financial contributions as a result. Stanford was counting the housing allowance as a resource that the student veteran was bringing to the table in calculating financial aid.
Behrend thought it was not fair for the university to take $28,000 in VA funds to cover $18,000 in room and board.
Behrendt had become an accidental advocate, and because of his efforts, Stanford’s general counsel noted in a letter to Behrendt that the university would no longer take more than the amount of the housing costs out of the VA’s living allowance, and that the university would not use an outside donor’s funds to meet a federal requirement that institutions match VA contributions under the Yellow Ribbon program.