When SVA founder Silas H. Rhodes opened the doors of SVA more than 60 years ago, the first students had their education underwritten by the same benefactor: the U.S. government, which was providing educational benefits to military veterans under the program popularly known as the “G.I. Bill.” Over the years, G.I. Bill benefits were gradually reduced, but in 2008 Chapter 33 amended the law to provide more robust benefits to veterans whose service began since September 11, 2001.
Under Chapter 33, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) covers tuition and fees equivalent to the highest of each state’s public institution. Since New York State is home to Cornell University (which is a land-grant university and includes state-supported colleges), SVA’s tuition and fees fall below the VA’s ceiling for the program. This year, 12 SVA students are participating in Chapter 33 and enrolling at the College following their military service, with more calls coming in for upcoming semesters.
One of those students is Shane Williams, who just started his freshman year in the BFA Illustration and Cartooning Department after serving in the Navy for four years. Following two full deployments, he’s gone from fueling aircraft and jeeps aboard the USS Boxer to pursuing his dream of being a professional artist. “There were rumors [about Chapter 33], everybody in the military had a different story, so I called the VA in San Diego,” says Williams, who had become interested in attending SVA while in high school. “As soon as this became an option, I wanted to apply.” Williams says that with the help of Gemma Prosper-Brown in the Office of the Registrar, he was easily able to apply for VA benefits that will support his SVA education for up to 36 (non-sequential) months.
Now Williams is eager for his first classes and is adjusting to his new life in New York City. “I’ve been in a very strict regimen for four years,” he says, and he’s ready to shift from fueling military planes to building up his studio skills with the same discipline and energy.
Images: Shane Williams, (top) Faith, 2008; (bottom) Self Portrait in Mirror, 2008.