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May 2012

Yellow Ribbon allows college dad to finish degree himself

Mike Sanchez

> Learn more about Yellow Ribbon & Avila's Veterans Program

Paying for college can be difficult enough these days. But, think about trying to put two daughters – with a third about to graduate high school – through college, all the while working full time and working toward an undergraduate degree himself.

That’s what Mike Sanchez is facing. And, that’s where the Yellow Ribbon Program comes in.

Sanchez, a 24-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, wanted to continue the pursuit of his college education after retiring from service, but didn’t want to have to stretch his family budget any more than it already was. He enrolled in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which pays for up to 100 percent of education costs for qualified veterans.

“I’d run out of my GI benefits,” said Sanchez, who’s pursuing a bachelor’s degree in human resources through Avila University’s Advantage adult-education program. “A friend told me about Avila and the Yellow Ribbon Program. Because it’s a private school, costs are higher. Yellow Ribbon made the difference. There was no money out of pocket. That’s huge when you’re raising a family.”

Not only does Yellow Ribbon cover Sanchez’s full tuition and books, it also provides $1,100 per month in living expenses for up to 36 months.

Originally from Billings, Mont., Sanchez left home when he was 18 and enlisted in the Marine Corps. He was trained and worked as an avionics technician for four years. By the time he left the Corps in 1987, he was married with two children.

He enrolled at Montana State University while also holding two jobs to support his family. But, with the economy in a slump, the financial struggle became too much, and he re-enlisted in the Marine Corps. This time, he spent 20 years as an administrator, stationed at several places – Sacramento, Calif., Kansas City, Mo., Worcester, Mass. and back to Kansas City, where he finally decided to make his home for his ever-growing family, now with four children.

“I was lucky to come back to Kansas City,” Sanchez said. “I liked the central location. It was easy to get anywhere.”

He retired from the Corps while stationed at Great Lakes, Ill. and returned to Kansas City in 2006, where he became a federal contractor as a financial systems analyst. But he wanted to finish the education he’d started so many years earlier in Montana. That’s when he came to Avila.

“When I got here, the admissions people were very supportive,” said Sanchez, who was preparing to finish his capstone project. “I got in the human resources program in its first year; I was one of the first enrollees.”

Sanchez said the Avila Advantage program has been a perfect fit to suit his lifestyle and educational goals.

“What’s great about Avila is, in the Advantage program, professors have outside jobs,” he said. “The courses are more like real-life courses, and we’re given real-life projects. Professors share their experiences and pass along real information.

“Avila Advantage allows you to attend class one night per week per course. None of the courses overlapped, which worked out great for my schedule.”

Sanchez said he’s scheduled to complete his degree requirements in December 2012. In the meantime, he continues his work as a federal contractor with the Marine Corps, taking a $12 billion per year military salary budget and reconciling it down to the penny. Once he has his degree, he said he hopes to work in human resources for the government.

“I have the experience, but not the degree,” Sanchez said. “Once I get that degree, I feel like I’ll be ready for anything.” AU


Media Contact: Bob Luder, 816.501.2434