Nearly 2 million service members have
been deployed under Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi
Freedom (OIF) since 2001. Many of these service members are now returning from
active duty in search of homes, jobs and an education. As a result, colleges
and universities are working harder than ever to meet veterans’ postsecondary
education needs. Some colleges have made great improvements in supporting
veteran and active service members since the Post-9/11 GI Bill was implemented
in 2009, while others still have a long way to go. Therefore, it is important
for service men and women to do their homework when choosing a college that
will best meet their needs.
Maximizing Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits
For many military students, the
Post-9/11 GI Bill is the main reason for beginning or continuing their
postsecondary education. To receive the maximum benefits from the Post-9/11 GI
Bill, veteran and active service members must select a college that understands
the challenges presented by the bill and has the expertise to manage the
benefits it offers. In addition to assisting military students with
understanding and leveraging the Post-9/11 GI Bill and its provisions, colleges
should provide additional accommodations for veteran and active service
members. Here are a few things to look for:
On-Campus Resources: Military
Friendly Schools offer on-campus resources to make learning about and utilizing
Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits as easy as possible for veteran and active duty
service members. As stated in the Journal of Student Affairs Research and
Practice, “The vast array of funding possibilities illuminates the need for
institutions to have a point person or office that can work with service member
complexities.” It is advised that military students seek out this individual or
office to learn about the benefits available in order to maximize their college
Yellow Ribbon: A qualified college
will help military students utilize programs like the Yellow Ribbon Program.
This program is a provision of the Post-9/11 GI Bill that is designed to help
students avoid up to 100 percent of the out-of-pocket tuition and fees that may
exceed GI Bill tuition benefits. Schools should help veteran and active service
members receive additional funds through this provision without additional
charges to the student’s entitlement. By helping military students navigate
processes and utilize benefits like the Yellow Ribbon Program, colleges can
streamline the administrative aspects of degree programs for these students.
Credit: Many Military Friendly Schools
accept College Level Examination Programs (CLEP) and/or DANTES Subject
Standardized Test (DSST) exams for credit, and many will accept military
training and experience for credit through the American Council on Education
Financial discounts: Most also offer
military students benefits such as tuition discounts; in-state tuition without
residency requirements; and fee-waived applications.
Flexibility: Military Friendly
Schools tend to offer flexible schedules through evening, weekend, and online
courses; and reenrollment without penalty for military students who are called
to active duty.
SOC Degree Network System: Military
Friendly Schools are often part of the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges
(SOC) Degree Network System, an organization that works to provide educational
opportunities to military students who, because of frequent relocation, have
difficulty completing their college degrees.
MyCAA: These colleges may also
participate in the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA), a
program that provides up to $4,000 (over two years) of financial assistance for
military spouses pursuing degree programs, licenses or credentials that lead to
employment in portable career fields.
Relevant Degree Options: Relevant degree
options are increasingly important to veteran and active service members.
Therefore, colleges looking to cater to these individuals should offer two- and
four-year degree options in areas such as management, leadership, and public
administration. Additionally, these degree options should be made available on
a flexible schedule through day, night, and online courses. Colleges that
understand the difference between traditional day students and military
students will make allowances and build curriculums around the desires and
needs of their veteran and active duty service members.
Career placement: This is one of the
most important aspects of a military student’s education. The transition from
academic to civilian life is as critical to military students as the transition
from military to student life. Colleges must acknowledge this process and
provide the necessary support through internship opportunities, access to
career counselors, and a network of Military Friendly Employers.
Community Connections: Colleges
should also have experienced veteran advisors and counselors on staff who can
help liaise with Local Veterans Representatives (LVRs) for career placement. By
leveraging their business and community connections, Military Friendly Schools
can effectively make the transition for military students into the work force
as seamless as possible.
The provision of these benefits clearly
demonstrates a college or university’s commitment to military students.
Dr. Thomas M. McGovern, President of Fisher College,
served in the U.S. Army from 1968-1971. He is an educator, corporate trainer,
and management consultant with more than 30 years of experience.
Bill Challenges VA, Schools
The implementation of the Post-9/11 GI
Bill created many challenges for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
According to a 2011 report by the RAND
Corporation and the Lumina Foundation for Education on behalf of the American
Council on Education, issues with the Post-9/11 GI Bill included delayed or
erroneous processing and payment of claims, which is hoped to improve as the VA
modernizes its claims system infrastructure.
These complications are attributable to
the complexity of this version of the GI Bill compared to previous versions,
such as the 1984 iteration known as the Montgomery GI Bill.
While the VA is making strides to
improve its claims processing infrastructure, colleges are also working to
adapt to the changes presented by the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The administrative burden
of monitoring GI benefits has caused
college administrators to report a workload increase of 50-200 percent since
the bill was implemented, according to the RAND study. Reasons for increased
workload were cited as:
Managing a 35-100 percent increase in
total GI Bill enrollments.
Familiarizing staff with new benefit
details and a new certification software system.
Working with the student accounts
office to ensure that the institution received the correct tuition payments and
to troubleshoot payment errors with the VA.
Resubmitting enrollment verifications
to the VA each time a student added or dropped a course.
Assisting students in understanding
their benefit options.
To manage the increased workload,
colleges have added staff and rely on VA work-study students when possible.
Some colleges have also applied for grant money to fund additional
veteran-related staff positions.