Marine captain to elite university: Pay my tuition

It's a bold strategy, Cotton.

A Marine Corps officer has publicly floated an unusual arrangement with a university he wants to attend: Pay my tuition.

“Military veterans are some of the most qualified individuals to add depth and diversity to a top-20 MBA cohort,” Capt. Daniel Robb wrote in an op-ed published last week in Marine Corps Times arguing that universities should foot the bill for military veterans seeking a master’s degree in business administration. “In order to add a well-proven leader, which can round out the ­diversity of a MBA cohort, universities need to step up. So, Cambridge. What do you say?”

In the op-ed, titled Dear Cambridge, help me pay for school. Sincerely, a U.S. Marine veteran, Robb wrote that he gained admission to his number one choice program at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom but the cost of paying the roughly $100,000 annual tuition and living expenses is “daunting.”

“Many military veterans are doing the same. Given the tumultuous times brought on by the global COVID-19 pandemic, many transitioning veterans are opting to seek out higher education instead of an alternate career outside of the military,” wrote Robb, who has an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in accounting, worked at the world’s largest financial consulting firm, served as a ground intelligence officer in the Marine Corps, and started his own business. 

After taking effect in 2009, the Post 9/11 GI Bill greatly expanded veterans’ education benefits, with more than half a million service members applying in the first year of the program. While it’s true that many veterans enroll in undergraduate programs after leaving the military, fewer than 10% used education benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs for graduate programs in 2017. 

The Post-9/11 GI Bill covers the full cost of public, in-state tuition and fees, pays for books and supplies, and provides a monthly housing allowance. In addition, the Yellow Ribbon Program gives qualified applicants money to pay the higher tuition costs of private schools. However, as Robb argues, that “only covers a small portion of the tuition” for a top-20 MBA curriculum, which is why he says he’s seeking alternative ways to pay for his dream school.

“It still has been difficult to receive significant consideration for one of the few merit based scholarships available,” he wrote, explaining that his years of having a stable income from military service makes it harder to qualify.

“If military veteran MBA candidates are struggling to stand out among the already crowded field vying for scarce scholarships, how do they pay for the rising tuition cost of continued education?” Robb asks before answering: “The responsibility is on the universities themselves.”

Officials at the University of Cambridge did not respond to a request for comment. But the reaction to the op-ed appeared largely negative, with author Matt Gallagher perhaps summarizing it best: “If you’re looking to build a case that veteran entitlement has run amok in modern America, here’s some strong evidence!” said Gallagher, a former Army captain who saw combat in Iraq as a scout platoon leader.

Several Marine Corps Times readers criticized the author for “begging” for a scholarship and questioned why he felt entitled to more scholarships than veterans who are satisfied with free public education.

“You want to go to a top tier program, you’re going to have to pay. You get free public college with the GI Bill,” said one former Marine sergeant. “Let’s not perpetuate this veterans crying for more handouts perception.”

At any rate, if the op-ed doesn’t work out, Robb can always start a Twitter account and beg celebrities to pay his tuition.

Now read Marine officer: Let troops drop acid before they analyze intel

Paul Szoldra
Paul Szoldra

is the Editor in Chief of Task & Purpose and a Marine Corps veteran. Reach out via email or find him on Twitter at @paulszoldra. Contact the author here.

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