WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., hopes the actions of one university “will embarrass” other institutions of higher learning into stepping up to support dependents of active-duty forces.

“I hope this will embarrass other schools who talk the good game of supporting our troops but are not stepping up to the plate the way Widener is,” Weldon said.

Widener University will offer undergraduate scholarships of up to $100,000 for four years for children of troops killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan, President James Harris announced Tuesday. The U.S. death toll from the two operations is more than 1,650.

Until 1972, the 184-year-old university in suburban Philadelphia had been a military academy. Today it maintains a strong ROTC program and offers undergrad programs in nursing, engineering, business, education, hotel and restaurant management, and liberal arts with a strong biology program, Harris said. Approximately 6,300 students attend Widener.

An annual $25,000 payout would cover the $21,900 tuition and leave money for books and such items. It would not cover room and board. The university will provide up to 16 scholarships at a time, Harris said.

While Widener’s program is the only one to offer a full four-year scholarship, about 500 of the nation’s 3,300 institutions of higher learning have approached the Pentagon seeking suggestions on programs that would benefit GIs and their families, said Gary Woods, director of Educational Opportunities at the Pentagon’s office of Personnel and Readiness.

Widener’s board of trustees voted unanimously to continue the program for several decades, especially because most children of troops killed today are young. University officials anticipate the bulk of applicants to come in 10 to 12 years, Harris said.

The amount of scholarships could change in the future to reflect inflation or rising tuition costs, he said. The board also is seeking to raise money to offer additional scholarships, said trustee and retired Army Gen. John Tilelli Jr., a 1963 academy graduate.

VA offers benefits for families of troops killed or disabled

The Department of Veterans Affairs offers an educational and training benefit to spouses and children of U.S. active-duty military personnel killed or permanently and totally disabled. The benefit applies to families of guard and reserve personnel on active duty status.

The Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program pays $803 a month for 45 months to spouses and dependent children to pay for education at VA-approved universities, colleges, trade schools or training programs, said Dennis Douglass, the VA’s deputy director of education and benefits.

The benefit is available for spouses up to 10 years after the military members is killed or disabled, and up to the age of 26 for dependent children, he said.

For additional information visit the Web at:, contact your local VA regional Office, or call (888) 442-4551.

— Stars and Stripes

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