Like other students, veterans and active-duty service members gain most from a distance education that is affordable, accessible and well-regarded. Clarkson College, a private, non-profit health care-focused college in Omaha, Nebraska, strives year-after-year to meet and improve upon those expectations. In 2013, U.S. News & World Report ranked Clarkson College No. 1 out of 101 eligible institutions across the nation in the category of Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs for Veterans.
James Simmons, M.S.N., R.N., served in the U.S. Army from 1981–2010 and is now a current graduate student in the Master of Science in Nursing program at Clarkson College. A fellow Army Nurse Corps officer of Simmons’ graduated from Clarkson College, and recommended the school to him for advancing his career in order for him to become a family nurse practitioner. The flexibility of the program and expertise level of the faculty, in comparison to other colleges, stood out to James.
“The program structure allows me to work at my own pace, yet is suitable for achieving the course requirements,” Simmons said. “Its design allows for interaction with other students on a daily basis, thereby enhancing the learning experience. I am able to receive constant feedback from my instructors in a timely manner.”
On top of a high-quality, accredited education, Simmons is also thankful for the tuition and fees benefits package he receives for his education. “My post 9-11 GI Bill, along with the Yellow Ribbon (YR) program, pays for of my tuition and fees. For that, I am grateful.”
Clarkson College students receive their benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or military, depending on their service, branch, dates, tenure, active-duty, etc. “The students provide documentation of their qualifying benefits, and our Students Accounts Manager and Certifying Official, Marty Povondra, ensures the students receive the educational benefits for which they are eligible,” said Margie Harris, Director of Student Financial Services at Clarkson College.
The maximum benefit paid by the VA has increased to $19,198.31 per academic year per student. For those veterans who qualify for YR benefits, Clarkson College has contracted with the VA to provide a dollar-for-dollar match to cover part of the difference between the base education benefit provided by the VA and the student’s tuition and fee costs. For example, if a student’s tuition and fees charges are $6,200 and the VA education benefits pay $4,000, the remaining balance of $2,200 would be split between the Clarkson College YR program and the VA’s YR program. “One of the goals of the YR program is to ensure the student doesn’t have to pay out-of-pocket tuition and fee expenses,” Harris said.
Alongside being certified for the GI Bill and participating in the YR program, Clarkson College also offers credit-granting courses listed in the Defense Activities for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) Catalog of Nationally Accredited Distance Learning Programs, and is a member of the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) Consortium.
Now, one year into the MSN program, Simmons expresses he couldn’t be more pleased with his decision to attend Clarkson College. Currently living in Cibolo, Texas with his wife, an active-duty Army Nurse Corps officer, and two children, Simmons hopes to work in an underserved area on the northeast side of San Antonio after graduating in December, 2014.