After serving three years as a corpsman, Butler decided to pursue an economics degree at Texas A&M, a decision that promised to put a strain on his family’s finances. “I was stationed in San Diego, and my wife and I both had jobs with a decent salary,” Butler said. “But going to college meant that I would forego my income completely and that my wife would have to take a pay cut.”
Like most veterans, Butler receives funding from the G.I. Bill, but not enough to cover expenses, such as textbooks, that are not included in tuition. Only $1,000 of his annual stipends are designated for books and supplies, but many textbooks cost upwards of $300. Fortunately, a Texas A&M student-run organization exists to assist him and other Aggie veterans.
“During my new student conference, I learned that Aggie Shields provides textbooks free of charge to veterans,” Butler said. “It was a huge relief.”
Aggie Shields was founded in 2012 to raise money for Aggie ring scholarships for veterans, but it wasn’t long until its leaders discovered that textbooks were the major cost weighing down student veterans. After realizing this, the organization created a textbook lending library.
Housed within the Veteran Resource and Support Center in the John J. Koldus Student Services Building, the library is open and free to all student veterans at Texas A&M. With more than 1,300 new and used books either purchased or donated by private individuals, the library rented 418 books to 137 student veterans during the spring 2017 semester.
“We generally get four to six uses out of each book,” said Sgt. Maj. Donald Freeman, veteran programs and outreach coordinator for Texas A&M’s Veteran Resource and Support Center, a department within the Division of Student Affairs. “If you look at that from a business standpoint, it equals a 400 to 600 percent return on investment.”
In the fall 2016 semester, for example, the lending library helped veterans and their dependents save more than $36,000 on textbooks – a tremendous financial boost considering that many veterans are already married with kids and incur expenses that traditional students don’t, such as mortgages, automobile payments and daycare costs.