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Greensburg campus makes the grade for veterans

| Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012, 9:04 p.m.

The University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg has been designated a “military friendly school” by G.I. Jobs magazine.

That comes as no surprise to Jonathan Quickquaro, 25, who attends the school as part of the post-9/11 G.I. Bill, which provides tuition remission, housing and a book allowance.

“Most military veterans are from nontraditional families,” said Quickquaro, who served in the Navy for five years as an aviation electronic technician. “They are working part time or have young families. The staff at Pitt at Greensburg seems to dedicate themselves fully to military veterans.”

Susan Isola, director of media relations at Pitt-Greensburg, said the campus competed for the designation with 12,000 institutions nationwide and ranked in the top 15 percent of all colleges, universities and trade schools that are embracing veterans as students.

G.I. Jobs Selection is based on a survey of student veterans who provide peer reviews of an institution. The G.I. Jobs survey was verified by Ernst & Young. The magazine caters to those making the transition from life in the military.

“We feel honored to be a part of that select group of colleges and universities in the United States,” Isola said.

During the 2011-12 academic year, 67 veterans, their spouses or children were attending Pitt-Greensburg with the assistance of veterans' benefits, according to the university.

Forty of those students received G.I. Education benefits, which provide all eligible veterans with an amount equal to the cost of attending a public four-year college. Of those, 25 were eligible to receive post-9/11 Veterans Educational Benefits, along with two dependents of veterans.

In addition, the university waives its $45 application fee for veterans.

Isola said currently there are 50 students collecting benefits. Of the 50, 34 receive post-9/11 benefits. Among them are two Yellow Ribbon participants and two dependents.

Donna Dineley is part of the Yellow Ribbon Program. It allows institutions to voluntarily enter into an agreement with the Veterans Administration to fund tuition expenses that exceed in-state tuition and fees of public institutions.

Dineley, 45, retired from the Marine Corps in 2010, when she was stationed in Quantico, Va.

“I'm not your traditional student, I'm one of the oldest students,” said Dineley, who is studying political science with a minor in philosophy. “Many of the students are in their 20s. It's nice to have a common background with so many folks with military experience.”

But there's more drawing military students to this part of Western Pennsylvania.

Thomas Crowley didn't hesitate when he got out of the Army and decided to go to school. Pitt-Greensburg was a perfect fit for him, he said.

“They had a reputation for a military friendly school in a conservative area and it turned out to be exactly right,” said Crowley, who served as an intelligence analyst and is studying political science to return to the service. “From a staff and location standpoint, I couldn't think of a better choice.”

Quickquaro agreed that Pitt-Greensburg staff members make a world of difference because many strive to ensure veterans get the help they need.

“You can walk up to any professor and get the answers you are looking for. All you have to do is say, ‘Hey, do you have a second? I need help,' ” he said. “I've never had the experience where they didn't have the time.”

In addition to being a full-time student, Quickquaro works at Highmark in Pittsburgh. He is the father of a 2-year-old daughter with another baby on the way. He said the school has worked with him when he is late for class to take his daughter to the babysitter or if needs to make up a test.

“Pitt at Greensburg has done a tremendous job,” he said. “Not just for me, but for my other veteran friends. We've been extremely happy.”

Michele Stewardson is a freelance writer.