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Some of the Challenges Facing Student Veterans

student veteran

By Debbie Gregory.

Military veteran benefits such as the Montgomery GI Bill, the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and now the Forever GI Bill, have enabled education for veterans by paying for expenses such as tuition, textbooks, and housing.

With those obstacles out of the way, there are still some challenges for veterans that are transitioning from the military to veteran education programs.

Gone is the military ranking system. Gone is the brotherhood. Gone is the sense of working towards the successful outcome of a shared mission. What remains, for most, is the drive towards personal, individual success, which may be confusing for some veteran students.

Additionally, since veteran students tend to be older than their civilian counterparts, they have not only had different life experiences, but they also have different life obligations, which may include spouses, children, mortgages, etc.

Another difference is that many veteran students have witnessed or experienced the horrors of war, and may be suffering from mental or physical issues.

So what can be done to support these students in order to improve their chances of success?

The VA Campus Toolkit offers tips on what faculty, staff, administrators and students can do to help veteran students.

A community site for veterans to gather on campus can empower students to share information, respond to one another’s needs, and relieve stress while providing a venue for veterans to discuss shared concerns.

Having a chapter of Student Veterans of America or a Veterans Resource Center on campus offers a safe haven for veteran students, without them having to overshare their veteran status.

Removing obstacles and red tape can go a long way towards student retention and in the reputation of your institution as a military-friendly campus.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Here’s What You Need to Know About the Forever GI Bill

forever gi bill 2

By Debbie Gregory.

The “Forever GI Bill,” a sweeping expansion of GI Bill education benefits, is on its way to the Oval Office.

Passed by both houses of Congress, the bill will increase veteran’s benefits by more than $3 billion over the next decade.

One important change, reserved for those who become eligible after January 1, 2018, is the removal of the 15-year limit on using their GI Bill benefits, which offers them more flexibility.

Additionally, the Forever GI Bill boosts education assistance for National Guard and Reserve troops, Purple Heart recipients and for the dependents of fallen troops.

Reservists called to active duty under sections 12304(a) and 12304(b) are now eligible. Previously, only reservists called to active duty by presidential order as a result of a national emergency were eligible. This applies to all reservists mobilized after Aug. 1, 2009, but reservists can receive payment only for classes that start after Aug. 1, 2018.

Reservists who were receiving REAP payments may now be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Currently, there are less than 4,000 people eligible for this benefit.

Purple Heart recipients will get the full GI Bill amount, regardless of how long they served on active duty.

For veterans who were caught up in the collapse of for-profit schools Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech, the legislation would fully restore their GI Bill education benefits.

Of course, all of this comes with a price tag, and the expansion will be paid for by reducing the increases in housing allowances paid under the GI Bill to new beneficiaries. As of January 1, 2018, the GI Bill housing allowance will decrease an average of $100 a month. Active-duty BAH is also affected, decreasing each year by 1 percent every year from 2015 to 2019,  so that by 2020, BAH will only cover 95 percent of a military member’s housing cost.

The housing allowance for GI Bill students will now be based on the campus location where classes are attended, not necessarily the main campus.

Effective August 1, 2018, Dependent’s Education Assistance (DEA) monthly payments will increase by about 50 percent, but the maximum number of months that a dependent can get DEA decreases from 45 to 36.

Also effective August 1, 2018, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs are eligible for the “Edith Nourse Rogers Scholarship” which will pay veterans up to $30,000 if they have used up all their GI Bill benefits and have at least 60 semester/90 quarter hours credit toward a STEM degree. It also will pay those who already have a STEM degree and are working on a teaching certification.

The High Technology Pilot Program, scheduled to start in the spring of 2019, covers the full cost of high technology training offered by a company versus a school.

MilitaryConnection.com has a comprehensive education area, and we invite you to check out the numerous education resources at https://militaryconnection.com/education.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, and their families.

What Makes a School Truly Veteran Friendly?

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By Debbie Gregory.

Veterans who have transitioned out of the military do so with rich veteran education benefits, especially those who have the Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. In addition to tuition, the benefit covers housing, books and supplies. It’s no wonder that schools want to recruit these potential students.

But because veterans can only spend these veteran education benefits once, finding the right institution to help guarantee success is of great importance. This is achieved by finding an institution that fosters a culture which is supportive, appreciative, respectful, embracing, and inclusive of the veterans it educates. Schools that genuinely value diversity will make an active, sustained effort to attract veterans, because they recognize the value of their presence in the classroom.

Being veteran friendly also means being responsive to the unique needs of their student-veteran population.

Here are some characteristics a veteran education program should provide:

  • A veterans lounge as a designated space for the veterans to gather, study, and socialize
  • Department of Veterans Affairs resources directly on campus
  • A chapter of Student Veterans of America
  • Fully covered tuition through the G.I. Bill, and a commitment to meet any shortfalls through institutional aid
  • Exemption from standard residential housing policies since veterans are older and may have families
  • Credit for military service
  • A quality education

Military bases maintain an education office, and conduct transition assistance workshops for servicemen and women preparing to reenter civilian life.

Additional resources include:

  • The Warrior Scholar Program empowers enlisted military veterans by providing them with a skill bridge that enables a successful transition from the battlefield to the classroom. The program works to maximize their education opportunities by making them informed consumers of education, and increases the confidence they will need to successfully complete a rigorous four-year undergraduate program at a top-tier school.
  • Service to School, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that provides free application counseling to military veterans. Their goal is to help veterans win admission to the best universities possible and to help them maximize their education benefits.
  • The Posse Foundation, which forms groups of 10 veterans who all are admitted to the same college at once, and form a ready-made squad of peers who can support each other throughout their college experience and succeed as a team.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

 

Would Changes to the GI Bill Impact Military Recruitment?

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By Debbie Gregory.

Patriotism is usually among the top three reasons people give for joining the military. So is the promise of great educational benefits provided through the GI Bill. With that said, changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill and other education benefits would probably have a bigger impact on military recruitment and retention if the recipients actually understood what they were getting.

It is common knowledge that a college education is expensive. A recent RAND report evaluating military education benefits revealed that many new recruits and service members don’t really understand what their benefits entail.

Some of the benefits you could be eligible for through the Post-9/11 GI Bill include 100% coverage of tuition and fees paid directly to a state operated college or university on your behalf, a monthly living stipend based on your school’s zip code, an annual book and supply stipend, a one-time relocation allowance, and the ability to transfer GI Bill benefits to a spouse or eligible dependent. And since 2009, servicemembers are not required to contribute to the program to access the benefits.

Veteran advocacy groups, including the Student Veterans of America, have been pushing Congress to make changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill that would expand eligibility for wounded service members and reservists.

For the report, RAND researchers polled 165 new recruits who had yet to attend boot camp, in order to ascertain how much they knew about the Post 9/11 GI Bill education benefit. While education was among the recruits’ commonly cited reasons for joining the military, many were unclear about the actual details of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The new recruits who were well informed about the benefits were generally older, more likely to have college experience and more likely to be female.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

State and Community Colleges Successful for Student Veterans

vet center

By Debbie Gregory.

Student veterans face challenges that their civilian counterparts don’t; they are usually older than civilian students and in many cases, they are juggling college with families, jobs and service-related disabilities.

Student veterans believe that their discipline, maturity and drive aid them if facing their many challenges. But on the flip side, many of them find the less disciplined environment of a campus can be a problem for veterans used to being told what to do and when to do it

Many colleges and universities are eager to recruit military veteran students, attracted to the $10.2 billion a year in GI Bill benefits that come with them. Unfortunately, many of the large for-profit schools such as ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian (parent company to Heald College, Everest College and WyoTech) have gone out of business, leaving their veteran students hanging.

For colleges and universities looking to boost the number of veterans who will leave with a degree in hand, specialized support is key. According to the Departments of Defense, Education and Veterans Affairs, schools that don’t offer support to their student veterans have a very poor graduation percentage.

Many state and community colleges and universities with significant veteran support enjoy high levels of success. These schools will usually have some combination of a Veteran Center, dedicated veteran advisors and/or counselors, and a chapter of Student Veterans of America.

They also know how to convert military training and experience into academic credit. This can mean the difference between having enough GI Bill money to earn a degree, so that student veterans don’t have to choose between giving up or paying out of their own pockets.

According to Jared Lyon, president and CEO of Student Veterans of America and a Florida State grad, campuses that get it right are the ones “that look at the student veteran population as nontraditional students. It starts with the efforts to recruit, and there’s also a veterans resource office, a veterans center, a veterans lounge, a campus veteran success center.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Number of Veterans Studying Overseas on GI Bill is Rising

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By Debbie Gregory.

Thanks to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, an increasing number of U.S. military veterans are completing degrees overseas at global universities.

Part of the draw is the cheaper tuition, thanks in part to the favorable exchange rate.

The VA’s list of approved international colleges now includes around 1,800 universities or training schools in more than 100 countries.

According to VA statistics, more than 2000 Post-9/11 GI Bill students pursued degrees overseas in fiscal year 2015.

U.S. veterans interested in pursuing an international education can either use the GI Bill Comparison Tool to review the VA’s approved list of universities. The tool can also show veterans which benefits package is their best option.

If a veteran’s preferred college is not on the approved list, he or she can apply to have the school added, provided it meets the VA’s eligibility requirements.

According to the VA website, one of the main requirements for attending a foreign school under the GI Bill is that the institution of higher learning will result in a college degree or equivalent. If eligible, the VA will issue the veteran a Certificate of Eligibility, which shows the quantity and duration of benefits. Veterans should secure this certificate before enrolling at a foreign university.

The VA says the Post-9/11 GI Bill pays up to $21,000 in tuition per year at approved foreign colleges, about $1,500 per month for housing and $1,000 annually for books.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill has also opened up global education opportunities to eligible veterans’ family members. Active-duty service members must plan to complete 10 years of service to be eligible to transfer some or all of the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to a spouse or children.

If you decide to stay in the U.S. for your education, or you prefer to pursue an online degree, be sure to check out the MilitaryConnection.com directory of universities and colleges here.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Attorney Generals Demand Veteran Education Restored to Defrauded Veterans

predatory

By Debbie Gregory.

Numerous state attorney generals are speaking out on behalf of veterans who were defrauded of their veteran education by for-profit colleges.

The attorney generals (AGs) in eight states sent Secretary Bob McDonald a letter demanding restoration of GI Bill benefits. They allege that the for-profit colleges used deceptive tactics in recruiting veterans that slipped by the VA, denying them the quality veteran education that they would have received by attending non-predatory veteran schools.

Recruiters, who were more like heavy-handed salespeople,  used proven psychotherapy techniques to manipulate veterans into enrolling. Veterans used up their benefits on a worthless “education.”

“Veterans earn educational benefits through their heroic service to our country… They should not return home and become targets of predatory, bogus colleges whose only interest in our veterans is to profit off them,” said Illinois AG Lisa Madigan. “It’s critical that our tax dollars allow student veterans to get a true education and the opportunities it provides.”

The aforementioned colleges provided such low quality educations that other colleges would not accept them for transfer credits. Graduates were promised jobs that never materialized.

To protect veterans education moving forward, the AGs are suggesting the VA adopt four strategies.

Exercise current federal statutory authority to provide relief to these veterans

Trigger Automatic Reviews

Take Proactive Steps To Provide Full and Accurate Information

Increase Cooperation.

For-profit colleges can receive up to 90 percent of their revenue from taxpayer dollars, with the additional revenue frequently coming from veterans’ benefits and private student loans.

These students—including veterans—enrolled to become equipped for the workforce, but often they didn’t get what they need. Instead, they found confusing or misleading information, excessive costs, poor quality, low completion rates, and programs that provide training for low-wage occupations or, in some cases, where there simply are no jobs.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

In-state Tuition for Veterans and Their Families

instate tuition1

By Debbie Gregory.

In-state tuition rates to public colleges and universities will now be available to all recent U.S. military veterans and their families throughout the country.

In honor of Veterans Day, the White House made the announcement, reiterating President Obama’s “steadfast commitment” to our military members and veterans.

The president is also calling on Congress to move forward on three pieces of legislation to help improve veterans’ education.

According to Cecilia Muñoz, the Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council, “These pieces of legislation will really ensure that veterans have the opportunities and assistance to … realize the American dream.”

The first bill would heighten standards for schools receiving G.I. Bill funds. The second bill is aimed at protecting G.I. Bill benefits for veterans whose schools close mid-term. The third bill would increase regulation of for-profit colleges, many of which target veterans.

“What we think this does is ramp up the accountability” of those schools, Munoz said, adding that it ensures “we are requiring a high-quality education for veterans that have served us well.”

Additionally, the VA has revamped the GI Bill Comparison Tool, another way to help Veterans obtain and use their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. The GI Bill® Comparison Tool allows Veterans to enter their military status, the GI Bill benefit that they are thinking of using, their Cumulative Post 9-11 Active Duty Service , and the name of the school that they wish to research. The tool then provides a list of the schools that match. By clicking on the school’s name, the user can then read the data that the tool provides, including the amount of tuition and fees, the amount of Monthly Allowance for Housing (MAH) the student will receive, and the amount of book stipend.

The GI Bill Comparison will let the student know if their potential college, university or vocational school meets the required guidelines to receive federal funding, and whether it is a Yellow Ribbon School, how many GI Bill students there are. It also specifies whether there is a student veteran group, a VetSuccess on campus, etc.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Some For-Profit Colleges See GI Bill as Cash Cow: Military Connection

Some For-Profit Colleges See GI Bill as Cash Cow

By Debbie Gregory.

In 2009, the Post-9/11 GI Bill significantly increased the higher education benefits available to individuals who served on active duty in the U.S. armed forces after September 10, 2001. In the transition back to civilian life, many veterans are finding their way back to school to begin or continue their higher education and career plans.

With that said, the choice of school may be surprisingly complex. Economically, most students find the expense of school to be daunting. At the same time, many for-profit colleges are finding the way to stay open is to accept veterans – and their benefits.

Since 2009, $8.2 billion has been collected by for-profit colleges. As many as 30% of U.S. veterans have enrolled in college with the GI Bill.

The guarantee of funds from veteran students is appealing to these colleges, but for-profit schools have been accused of aggressively targeting veterans to enroll. Many of the schools have been hiring veterans as recruiters, hoping to appeal to the potential students’ sense of camaraderie.

For-profit schools are required by a federal student aid regulation, known as the 90/10 rule, to assure that at least 10 percent of their revenue is derived from non-federal sources. With tuitions rising, and the majority of students who are able to afford these costs being comprised primarily of veterans, this ratio is harder and harder to meet. Some schools, such as Corinthian College, have not able to maintain that ratio and have been forced to close their doors.

While students are acquiring the training they seek to pursue careers, veterans are advised to review the options presented by for-profit schools, such as whether their credits will matriculate to other institutions if they need to transfer. Veterans may find for-profit schools offer good trade skills, but may realize that some of them are up to four times the cost of an in-state, public school.

Veterans may want to keep these points in mind in case the school does have a risk of closing, for they will want to be in the position of continuing their education, keeping adequate resources, while still focusing on their career goals.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Military Connection: Model for Rating Veteran-Friendly Schools

Vet friendly schoolsBy Joe Silva

Since the implementation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill in 2009, more than one million individuals, including Veterans and dependents with transferred GI Bill benefits, have enrolled at institutions of higher education. And approximately 250,000 service members continue to separate from the military each year, the majority of whom will use their GI Bill to attend college. In response to all of these Veterans attending school through use of GI Bill benefits, many institutions have been vying for their federally paid tuition money, and the extra grant funding offered to schools that serve Veterans. Even with the best intentions in mind, some institutions have lost sight of the need to serve each Veteran student individually. It has become hard to tell which schools are actually out to help Veterans, and which are out solely to help themselves.

The Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) has come up with a possible solution for their state that could set the standard for the entire country. The MVAA has devised a rating system for colleges and universities that provides Veterans with a means to determine their prospective school’s track record for serving Veteran students.

The MVAA looks at criteria such as:

  • On-campus Veteran’s coordinator and/or staffed Veterans center
  • Active student-operated Veteran club/association
  • Established process for the identification of current student Veterans
  • Evaluation and awarding of credit for military training and experience
  • Veteran-specific website/portal
  • Monitoring and evaluation of student Veteran academic retention, completion and graduation rates
  • Monitoring and evaluation of student Veteran job placement rates

If a school has at least three of the above, the MVAA gives them a Bronze rating. If the school has four, they receive a Silver rating. If they are found to provide six or more of the above, schools are given a Gold rating. The ratings are announced by MVAA and placed on their website for Veterans to consider when they are researching schools to use their GI Bill.

While this rating system is currently only used in Michigan, it could be something to consider doing nationally, ideally by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which administers Veteran education benefits. When using the VA’s GI Bill Comparison Tool, Veterans have access to information such as how many GI Bill students attend a particular school, if that school has a Veterans club/group, and if they are a Yellow Ribbon School. Also available is information such as whether the school is in compliance with the president’s “Principles of Excellence,” do they abide by the “8 Keys to Veterans Success,” and if the school has had any complaints made to the VA by way of Veteran student feedback. Furthermore, Veterans can see how the school is accredited, and view the amount of fees paid through the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Yellow Ribbon Program. All the VA would have to do to implement a program similar to the one that the MVAA has in place would be to calculate the data that it is already collecting.

Veteran students will still have a choice of where they want to attend, but knowing if their prospective school is or isn’t doing all that they can to serve their Veteran students could assist with the decision making process.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the ArmyNavyAir ForceMarinesCoast Guard,Guard and ReserveVeterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Boardinformation on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Model for Rating Veteran-Friendly Schools: By Joe Silva