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A new scholarship at Pittsburg State University is ensuring that for members of the armed services, paying for college won't take a backseat to life's financial obligations.
A supporter of PSU has stepped forward to create a new endowed scholarship for military veterans who want to attend the university. The PSU Veterans Endowed Scholarship will be available for veterans who have served in any branch of the military, including the National Guard and Reserve.
Lou Steele, a farmer from nearby Arcadia, Kan., said he and his wife Polly (BSE '50) decided to establish the endowment after recently catching an interview with a veteran on a public radio station in Kansas City. The veteran discussed his experience attending college on the GI Bill after World War II, and said he was shocked to discover the limitations of financial aid available to veterans today.
"This man is a member of the Greatest Generation and he felt it isn't right (that more assistance isn't available)," said Steele, who turned to the PSU Office of University Development to establish the scholarship. "There are always people who fall through the cracks, no matter what the law says and what the rules are. There just isn't enough help for them."
The Kansas Board of Regents does award scholarships to cover tuition for Kansas high school graduates who have served in the current Afghanistan or Iraq conflicts, and the national GI bill offers varying levels of assistance to qualified veterans and their family members. But this privately funded endowment, available for veterans who qualify for GI benefits, is the first of its kind for those attending PSU.
"I see these folks who have been employed full-time with the military and they come back and don't qualify for financial aid because they're looking at last year's income," said Sherry Roberts, the veterans certifying official at PSU. "If you receive money from the GI bill and most of it goes toward housing and living and you can't work many hours while going to school, this scholarship will be a big help."
The endowment will generate money for scholarships by earning interest off Steele's gift. He says his goal is to encourage more donors to add to the gift, making the scholarships either larger or more numerous. It will be a great help, Steele said, for veterans who want to attend school but just can't find a way to afford it.
"We've got a lot of people who get involved in the Reserve and the first time they come home they may have a job. But the second time they come home they may not," he said. "It isn't going to do any harm to have this here for them."
It's certainly meaningful for Steele, who served in the Marine Corps during World War II. After leaving the military, he considered college but eventually joined the family business in Arcadia. His parents, James Steele and Dawn (Dunton) Steele, were graduates of Pitt State.
Ellen Carter, a major gifts officer for the PSU Development Office, said the university scholarship committee, in consultation with Roberts, will award the scholarship to three or four students a year. First preference will be given to those veterans demonstrating the greatest financial need.
"There are extenuating circumstances that GI benefits sometimes don't cover," Carter said. "This will give military personnel the extra help they need to get reestablished and be able to continue with their education."
Additional donations to the PSU Veterans Endowed Scholarship fund are welcome. For more information, contact the Office of University Development at 620-235-4768.
©2007 Pittsburg State University