Over the past 48 hours, Methodist University has received a great deal of publicity for its announcement to provide free classes to soldiers at our Ft. Bragg location in response to the elimination of Military Tuition Assistance (TA) offered to the Army and other branches of the Armed Forces. This action by Methodist was a gesture on our part to show our support for the troops and what they mean to this community and nation. Furthermore, active-duty soldiers, veterans, and their family members represent a significant number of MU students, so we wanted to demonstrate how committed we are to their continued education and progress toward a degree.
I want to commend the faculty and staff for their individual responses at this time of uncertainty for soldiers engaged in their educational pursuits. True to our “student-centered” approach, there have been many suggestions on how to address this situation. Faculty members have even offered to teach classes for free. In fact, we have not only offered free tuition for existing classes, but due to demand, we are expanding enrollment and adding additional sections for classes beginning next week.
The response from soldiers, community members, the media, and others has been overwhelming. When asked why we took this action, I think Yasmin Rivera, director of Methodist University at Ft. Bragg, put it best. “For many active-duty soldiers, it (the suspension of TA funding) put a halt to the educational goals they work so hard to achieve while defending our country. We want to show our service members that we appreciate their sacrifices, both on the field and off, and we are willing to do what we can during times of uncertainty. ‘Military friendly’ is not just a tagline—it’s a commitment we take seriously.”
Once again, Methodist gets it right. That’s why I have the best job in America, in the best community in America, made possible because of the best service members in America, who deserve an education.
It is very appropriate to feature our relationship with Ft. Bragg and its leadership in this column. There has never been a great university without a great community, and there is no more important element of our community than Ft. Bragg. MU benefits through collaborative educational programs, for sure, but there is so much more. It is the site for so many clinical rotations, internships, and other experiential offerings. The top leaders often visit the campus to lecture or serve in advisory capacities. Musical groups come to campus to perform, demonstrating just one more example of the tremendous resources they provide to all.
Brig. Gen. Ferdinand Irizarry stopped by my office last night, stating that he simply wanted to shake my hand for our gesture of free tuition for soldiers. He talked about the important role universities like Methodist have in educating our soldiers. Having such a patriot take the time to call on me was a humbling experience. It is I who should be thanking him and the rest of his colleagues.
Partnerships suggest reciprocal arrangements. Thus, it was without hesitation we immediately announced the free tuition program. That’s what partners do. America strong. Methodist University strong.