Thursday, January 5, 2012

Why higher education should be returning veterans' next duty station

Trudi Hope, Assistant Director of Advising, congratulates one of her
advisees, graduate SSG Nathaniel Powell, at the May 2011 ceremony
The 40,000 U.S. troops returning home from Iraq are now facing the challenge of transitioning back into civilian life. Yet as they seek jobs and try to find their place again in the civilian world, many are finding they aren't prepared to make the leap from combat to career.

These veterans have rich experiences from war, and have developed crucial life skills during their tours of duty. Now they need to learn how to apply these skills to what they want to do today to make a valuable impact on the civilian world.

That's why many returning vets are taking advantage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. It lets eligible veterans attend college at no cost or a highly reduced cost, and puts higher education within reach of more vets, enabling them to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to get the job they want.

In fact, I like to say higher education should be returning veterans' next duty station, because it can be the bridge that helps them transition from the battlefield to the civilian workplace. Rather than going from combat to career, returning veterans should go from combat to classroom to career. Here's a summary of the major benefits available to vets through the GI Bill:
  • Tuition and fees will be paid in full when vets choose to attend public college or university as an in-state student. If veterans attend a private or foreign school, tuition and fees are capped at $17,500 per academic year.
  • If vets attend a more expensive private school or a public school as a non-resident, out-of-state student, they can get reimbursed for the difference through the Yellow Ribbon Program, which some schools -- including Post University -- elect to participate in. The school will pay half the difference, and the Veterans Affairs office will match that contribution. So at Post University, for example, veterans have virtually no out-of-pocket expenses, whether they take classes on our main campus or entirely online.
    • A monthly housing allowance (MHA), which can cover room and board.
    • An annual books and supplies stipend of $1,000.
    For more details on these benefits, see the GI Bill website. Another helpful resource is my interview with Larry Rifkin, host of WATR's "The Rifkin Radio Show." We talked in depth about the education and financial benefits available to returning veterans, and the support that Post University in particular provides to active duty, veteran, and military-dependent students.

    When you listen to the interview, you'll hear Larry and me talk about the book I co-authored with David Renza, "Military Education Benefits for College." Like me, Dave is a U.S. Army veteran, having served in the Connecticut Army National Guard for 12 years, and he now supports military students through the Post University Military Program. Our book helps guide veterans in how to access and take advantage of their military benefits so they can earn their college degrees. You can learn more about our book and order it online.

    If you have questions about military education benefits, don't hesitate to leave them in the comments section. We'll get back to you!