May 14, 2003

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Foundation reimburses Cameron tuition lost through war deployments

A Lawton philanthropic foundation is helping the American war effort by covering educational funds lost by Cameron University through the deployment of nearly 100 students to the Persian Gulf.

During a recent meeting, the McMahon Foundation approved a gift of $63,780 to Cameron. The funds offset tuition, fees and student grant money that the university lost as a result of “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

Cameron adopted a policy earlier this year to give soldiers, National Guardsmen or reservists a full refund of their tuition and fees if they were suddenly deployed to the Persian Gulf. Of the nearly 1,000 Cameron students who fit into those categories, approximately 100 were deployed.

“We thought this was a nice, patriotic thing that Cameron was doing,” said Dr. Charles Graybill, chairman of the McMahon Foundation. “It didn’t have to do that. To show our appreciation, we decided to give the university a grant to replace the refunds given soldiers who were deployed.”

The grant was used to cover tuition and fees refunded to the affected students, as well as to cover federal grants those students had received to pay for expenses related to their college education.

“Because of Oklahoma’s current economic climate, Cameron’s educational budget has already been cut three times this fiscal year, resulting in the loss of approximately $1.5 million,” said CU President Cindy Ross. “"We made the decision to provide full refunds because it was in the best interest of the students and it recognized their contributions to our country. However, the additional loss of tuition through troop deployments is essentially a fourth budget cut. That makes the McMahon Foundation gift even more important and we are extremely grateful for it.”

Cameron and Fort Sill have a close working relationship when it comes to educating members of the military. The university not only offers courses on its main campus in Lawton, but also sends professors to teach at the Harry S Truman Education Center at Fort Sill. Dozens more members of the military are served through online classes.

In all, CU officials estimate that one-fourth of its students are either active duty military, Guardsmen, reservists or military dependents.

The current Cameron policy came as a result of lessons learned during the first Gulf War. Realizing that it was impossible to predict how long the current military operation would last and knowing how much of a financial and paperwork headache that withdrawal from classes could create for both soldiers and the university, CU officials determined that the best course of action was to allow the affected students a complete refund without penalty.

Those students were also provided the option of working with CU professors to find alternate methods of completing their course.

Withdrawing from a college course can sometimes be a time- consuming process because of the paperwork involved. In this case, it is not unusual for soldiers to receive their deployment orders on short notice. To make the withdrawal process easier and more convenient, Cameron staff members handled the paperwork for the soldiers.

Ultimately, the hope is that when the current war ends, those soldiers will return to Fort Sill – and return to Cameron to resume their studies.

Story contact: Keith Mitchell, director of media and public relations, Cameron University