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Group pledges $10 million in scholarships for returning veterans

WASHINGTON—The Horatio Alger Association will distribute $10 million in scholarships to honorably discharged American veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, the group said Thursday.

Former Sen. Bob Dole, a member of the association who pushed for the new program, said the scholarship money was a way to repay veterans for the sacrifices they'd made and to ensure that veterans of modern wars got the same level of support that he and fellow soldiers received after World War II.

"The GI Bill made it possible for me to go to college and on to law school," Dole said. "The men and women of our military who have engaged in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq deserve the same unstinting support and recognition that I received."

To be eligible, veterans must have served in Afghanistan or Iraq in 2001 or later and must demonstrate U.S. citizenship, financial need and the intent to pursue bachelor's degrees. The application is available on the group's Web site, at www.horatioalger.com. (Click on " Horatio Alger Association Military Veterans Scholarship Program"). The deadline is Sept. 1.

The amount and number of awards will depend on the number of qualified applicants, according to Joseph Neubauer, Horatio Alger's senior vice president. The group plans to offer the scholarships for at least four years.

They're the first scholarships intended for veterans of America's most recent wars. At least 525,000 American soldiers have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan so far, according to L. Paul Bremer, the former U.S. administrator in Iraq.

The scholarships are intended to supplement the financial assistance that the government and private sector offer veterans. The group hopes its offer will spur other groups to increase the amount of money available to help veterans attain higher education.

George Argyros, a former U.S. ambassador to Spain, came up with the idea while visiting wounded American soldiers in the Middle East.

"You just can't help but be profoundly moved by the commitment of these men and women," Argyros said. "We needed to do something to honor the loyalty and commitment to protecting our country of these young people."

The Horatio Alger Association is a nonprofit group that promotes education opportunity. The group, whose namesake wrote numerous rags-to-riches stories, distributes $5 million in scholarships each year to young people who've overcome difficult circumstances and want to attend college.

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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