Posted at: 07/14/2012 11:47 PM
| Updated at: 07/14/2012 11:53 PM
By: Dan Levy
ALBANY - There's a new battle plan in place to make a college education more affordable for American veterans and their families.
An agreement signed Saturday night by the president of Excelsior College and the commander of the Rainbow Division Veterans Memorial Foundation will allow multiple generations of veterans to attain college degrees with tuition savings of up to 75%.
The 42nd Infantry Rainbow Division can trace its roots to World War I. Colonel Douglas MacArthur, who was instrumental in forming the Division, said shortly after its completion, "The 42nd Division stretches like a Rainbow from one end of America to the other."
At the onset of World War II, the 42nd Division was reactivated. The 42nd landed in France as part of the 7th Army. Rainbow soldiers had seized over 6,000 square miles of Nazi held territory during their march across Europe.
More recently, they have served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Following the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Rainbow battalions provided immediate emergency response.
"While they did their duty for their country they were missing out on opportunities," said Major General Joseph Taluto, former Adjutant General of the New York National Guard and past commander of the 42nd Infantry Division. "They may not have been able to finish their education."
Now there's a new battle plan in place so that citizen soldiers can finish their education. An agreement signed between Excelsior College and Rainbow Division Veterans provides college tuition for undergraduate degrees at savings from 15% to 75%.
The agreement couldn't have come at a better time. Across America, one million veterans are currently out of work and the primary reason is lack of education.
"This kind of agreement attracts people to actually encourage them to get into education," Taluto says. "Unemployment is a big deal with our veterans."
"We have 93 million people, almost half our workforce that has no degree what so ever," John Ebersole, the president of Excelsior College, points out. "There are jobs going begging today because we've got a mismatch between the needs of employers and the skills, knowledge, and credentials of our workforce."
Richard Tisch is past president of the National Rainbow Division Veterans, who got his college degree on the GI Bill after returning from World War II.
For the returning soldiers of today, many of whom attended Saturday night's Rainbow Division reunion at the Hotel Albany, Tisch sees plenty of benefits.
"A lot of these young people are in a traumatic situation," Tisch begins. "They don't know what to do. Here's a situation that could encourage them to get an education and that's very important."
"What we will allow them is to take that GI Bill and entitlement a lot further then they might if they were going to a more expensive, perhaps traditional type institution," Ebersole states. "
The 42nd Infantry Division serves as part of the New York Army National Guard, based in Troy. They train around 14,000 soldiers from five states: New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.
Retired Major General Joseph Taluto, incidentally, got his degree from Excelsior College.