USD Students Aided by Foundation’s Veteran Initiative

Expressing its desire to support the educational aspirations of young military men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the Los Angeles-based Ahmanson Foundation has created something that helps financially and raises awareness for veteran students.

Calling it a “pro-active grant,” the foundation has started the Ahmanson Veteran Scholarship Initiative (AVSI) that provides 25 private colleges and universities in California, including the University of San Diego, with funding from a 2013-14 pool of $1.25 million that’s geared specifically to veteran students.

The AVSI awarded $50,000 to USD, whose support of military men and women veterans is transparent in academic schools, programs and is visible administratively as USD President Mary E. Lyons, PhD, served 25 years, retiring with the rank of captain in the U.S. Naval Reserves.

All monies, as stated by the foundation, are to be used by the institutions to recruit, retain and educate student veterans, according to William Ahmanson, president of the foundation.

“These young men and women have done so much for this country and the Ahmanson Foundation is delighted to play a role in helping them re-start their education and assimilate back to their civilian lives,” Ahmanson said in a statement.

Ahmanson said the majority of the schools picked for the grant were ones they’ve awarded money to in the past, but the schools vary in size and scope. For USD, being among the few chosen outside Los Angeles to receive funding is a sign of pride.

“It’s an honor to be part of such a wonderful initiative with our peer schools and especially with a foundation that has been providing funding to USD since 1973,” said USD Foundation Relations Director Annette Ketner.

Retired Navy Captain Tim McCandless was hired by USD in 2012 as a Veteran Student Services Coordinator. He’s also advisor of the on-campus Student Veterans Organization and has been part of a group that worked on the allocation of USD’s AVSI funds, which are available to Veteran students eligible for the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008.

While student veterans receive 36 months of military benefits, there’s still a gap as high as $6,000 they still have to pay, McCandless said. Some student veterans, including those at USD, have exhausted their benefits. The latter played a role in how USD chose to utilize its grant funding from AVSI.

McCandless said 60 percent of the grant money has, through an application process open to seniors and juniors, been allocated to help a few USD student veterans who are close to graduation and whose military benefits have expired. The remaining 40 percent has been set aside to help veteran students with special needs as they arise.

“We feel there’s a huge need (for funding) and initiatives such as this one by the Ahmanson Foundation is great. It’s a worthwhile investment,” McCandless said. “The foundation’s grant is generous. Every bit helps. The foundation’s initiative is an good example for others to follow.”

While it’s not uncommon for the foundation to provide support to colleges and universities for academic programs and scholarships, Ahmanson said the AVSI does get something started for young veterans returning to the U.S. in record numbers. The AVSI website provides information about each of the 25 schools, Veteran resources and links to other organizations who can provide financial resources.

Simply put, Ahmanson said, “Removing any obstacle [student veterans] might have to get to graduation is at the heart of this program. These are individuals who’ve come back from service to their country and they’re bright and motivated individuals. We want to capitalize on it because this is an opportunity to help them get the life they fought for.”