March 4, 2020

SUNY Empire State College and the New York State Division of Veterans’ Services Partner to Help New York’s 700,000 Veterans, Families Earn College Degrees

More Than 1,000 Veterans, Active Military, and Family Members Currently Enrolled at SUNY Empire State College

SUNY Empire Waives All Fees for Veterans, Spouses of Veterans, Active Duty, Guard, and Reserve Members

Part of SUNY Empire’s Campaign to Raise $1M to Support Military Families


(ALBANY, NY – March 4, 2020) SUNY Empire State College and the New York State Division of Veterans’ Services (DVS) today announced a new partnership to help New York state’s nearly 700,000 veterans and their spouses and children, as well as DVS employees, advance their education by reducing the cost and time required for degree completion through SUNY Empire’s personalized, flexible model. 

Through the partnership, any of the 700,000 veterans in New York state utilizing DVS programming, as well as their family members and DVS employees and retirees, will be eligible for SUNY Empire’s Commitment to Community Benefits Program, which waives the orientation fee for students who enroll and provides a one-time $100 Presidential Scholarship. In addition, SUNY Empire waives all fees for veterans, spouses of veterans, active duty, guard, and reserve members.

The program helps participants reduce the time and cost it takes to graduate by awarding transfer credits from traditional colleges and universities, as well as credits earned through SUNY Empire’s prior learning assessment, which includes identifying college-level learning acquired through military training, combat experience, professional development, standardized testing, licenses, and certifications. 

New students will be able to complete their associate, undergraduate, or graduate degree at any one of SUNY Empire’s 30-plus locations across New York state, online, or a combination of both, using SUNY Empire’s highly flexible individualized programs designed for busy working students, especially those individuals serving in the military. 

The SUNY Empire and DVS partnership adds to SUNY Empire’s existing efforts to increase resources and services to New York’s military, veterans, and their families. Last year, SUNY Empire launched its $1 million campaign to enhance financial aid and degree completion support for SUNY Empire’s students on active duty with the U.S. Armed Forces, as well as veterans, their families, and dependents.

Earlier this year in his State of the State address, Governor Cuomo announced SUNY Empire’s partnership with, a philanthropy that offers a full library of free online college courses and materials, which provides students an opportunity to earn up to one full year of college credit tuition-free. In addition to the unlimited free use of the courses and as part of the partnership, also will pay the costs for up to 1,000 credit-bearing exams for all students, especially New York veterans and active-duty military families. Students who complete one or more online college courses and pass a CLEP (College Level Examination Program) exam will earn credit through SUNY Empire State College.

“SUNY Empire is proud to deepen its commitment to New York state’s former and current service members and their families by making it easier for them to earn a high-quality college degree around the demands of their busy lives,” said SUNY Empire State College President Jim Malatras. “Colonel McDonough and the Division of Veterans’ Services are incredible advocates and supporters of New York state’s veterans. I’m grateful to the DVS team and the hardworking faculty and staff at SUNY Empire for taking another big step toward improving quality of life for service members and their families across the state.”  

“We are exceptionally honored and excited to be joining into a partnership with SUNY Empire to provide additional learning opportunities for all of our staff and their families,” said Colonel (USA, Ret.) Director of the New York Division of Veterans’ Services Jim McDonough. “We are an agency committed to training, tools, and technology and this collaboration with SUNY Empire brings us closer to achieving our mission of better serving all of New York’s veteran families.” 

"As chair of the New York State Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security, and Military Affairs, I am proud to support the collaboration between SUNY Empire and the Division of Veterans' Services,” said Senator John E. Brooks. “This is a great opportunity for those who work day in and day out to better the lives of our state's veterans, many of whom are veterans themselves. Ensuring that employees of the Division of Veterans' Services have access to a college education program both directly and indirectly helps our veterans reach their post-service civilian goals. I thank SUNY Empire for providing this opportunity to these dedicated employees, as well as the Division of Veterans' Services for their tireless commitment to assisting our state's veterans."

“I congratulate SUNY Empire and the Division of Veterans’ Services on this innovative partnership,” said Assemblywoman Didi Barrett. “I have long said that to best serve our veterans and all New Yorkers, state government needs to work outside its silos and find creative new methods of delivering and improving services. I hope this agreement serves as the beginning of a vital dialogue between these two agencies, which will foster collaboration and be a benefit to our veterans and their families across our state. I look forward to working with SUNY Empire and the Division of Veterans’ Services in these efforts.” 

“SUNY Empire State College and the and Division of Veterans’ Services are committed to supporting veterans in every community in New York state and support their degree completion and career advancements,” said Desiree Drindak, director of the Office of Veteran and Military Education at SUNY Empire State College. 

Following the signing, SUNY Empire and DVS hosted an open forum, “Experiential Learning: The Value of Military Training in Degree Completion, the Workforce, and the Community.” Moderated by McDonough, the program featured a panel of experts, including Stephanie Tubbs, deputy veterans’ program administrator at the New York State Department of Labor, Bruce Shahbaz, senior director of military strategy initiatives at the College Board, and Sara Appel, manager of the Multi-State Collaborative on Military Credit. 

Last fall, on Veterans Day, SUNY Empire announced that it would waive fees for the spouses of veterans, active duty, guard, and reserve members. There are currently 650 veterans, 400 active-duty military, and 150 family members enrolled in SUNY Empire around the world.  

Click here to see photos from today’s event. 

About the New York State Division of Veterans’ Services

The New York State Division of Veterans’ Services advocates on behalf of New York’s Veterans and their families, as individuals and as a group, to ensure they receive benefits granted by law for service in the United States Armed Forces.

The Division provides free benefits advising. Experienced and dedicated advisors — each a Veteran — work in a network of field offices across the state and offer Veterans and their families with professional help to resolve social, medical, and economic matters.

Veterans Benefits Advisors assist the claimant — whether a Veteran, spouse, child, or parent — in completing applications, obtaining necessary documentation, and filing claims for a broad spectrum of federal, State, local, and private Veterans’ benefits. Veterans Benefits Advisors also assist by responding to follow-up correspondence and, appealing an unfavorable ruling.

By working closely with other State, federal, local, and private agencies, the Division of Veterans’ Services utilizes the expertise and resources of others to help Veterans and their families with specific needs, such as economic, employment, rehabilitation, medical treatment, home health care, education, and tax exemption.

The Division plans and coordinates outreach services within the community and works closely with the United States Department of Veterans Services (VA) and other state agencies. The Division strives to educate the general public and governmental, and private agencies to the special skills and needs of Veterans, particularly those men and women who served in combat and who may have specific medical, employment, and other needs or skills uniquely resulting from wartime experience.

The Division also administers a Blind Annuity program that provides a monthly stipend to visually impaired Veterans and eligible surviving spouses, a Gold Star Parent Annuity that authorizes payment to eligible parents of service members killed in action, and the Veterans Education Bureau, which investigates and certifies postsecondary educational and vocational institutions as providing legitimate and quality education for Veterans seeking to utilize their federal education benefits to attend such facilities.

A toll-free information and referral hotline — 1-888-VETS-NYS (1-888-838-7697) — is available to refer Veterans and their families to the nearest Veterans Benefits Advisor Office. 

About SUNY Empire State College 

SUNY Empire State College educates students at any stage of life with a personalized learning experience delivered online, in person, or a blend of both. Since 1971, SUNY Empire has empowered students to earn an accredited degree around the demands of a busy lifestyle to advance their personal and professional goals. With world-class faculty, more than 1,300 dedicated mentors to help students tailor their degree programs, and cutting-edge distance learning technology, SUNY Empire delivers a trusted and flexible online college experience grounded in more than 30 New York State locations and seven international sites where students can learn and collaborate in person. Our nearly 50 years as a leader in awarding credit for prior learning and life experience helps students earn a degree faster and at lower cost. To learn more, visit and follow @SUNYEmpire.