By Tim Leeds
The Department of Education has a special program to help veterans living on or near an American Indian reservation get into higher education.
The Tribal College Academic Bridge (TCAB) is designed to address barriers to higher education preventing veterans living on or near reservations from entering college: the high rate of unemployment and the lack of funds, and geographic isolation and lack of education and career information. The program is a component of Montana State University-Northern Veterans' Upward Bound (VUB) based in Billings.
Any U.S. veteran having served at least 180 days of active duty or having been medically discharged, having received a discharge other than dishonorable and qualified as a low-income or first-generation college student qualifies for the program.
TCAB provides up to $360 in tuition fees for qualifying veterans to attend a tribal college. These fees are paid upon receipt of billing, class schedule and required program documentation.
The Montana tribal colleges participating in the program are Stone Child College in Box Elder, Blackfeet Community College in Browning, Dull Knife Memorial College in Lame Deer, Fort Belknap College in Harlem, Fort Peck Community College in Poplar, Little Big Horn College at Crow Agency and Salish Kootenai Community College in Pablo.
Fred Betz, coordinator of the program, is also available to help participating veterans plan their education or career goals and Veterans Affairs matters, and help with other referrals to programs and services. Veterans can receive assistance locating housing, tutoring and student support services on campus through the program. Betz said they often help veterans who call just looking for information on programs outside of VUB.
"Part of our job is to sort of broker services beyond our own," Betz said.
Additional tuition assistance is available after the first semester or quarter. Participants can apply for this assistance provided they maintain a grade point average of 2.5 or better and are completing courses required for their degree.
Once in a college, the veteran can also receive assistance through the VUB program or through the college itself applying for financial aid, GI educational benefits and tribal education grants and loans and other available programs.
eterans who participate in the TCAB program and complete their two year degree are also eligible to apply for a Bridge Scholarship, which provides up to $500 for the first semester at a four-year institution. Scholarships are payable to the institution to offset tuition and fees, based on long-term plans, need, GPA and academic major.
"Need is very important," he said. "It's about why we're trying to help people Need is the key. If they show a need and are a veteran, we're probably going to find a way to get things done."
For more information, contact VUB at 1-877-356-VETS (8387), (406) 657-2075, Fax: (406) 657-2077.