GI Benefits and YOU
Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso
It is “back to school” season across the country. Our college campuses are getting ready to welcome a new crop of freshmen students with open arms – and some are getting ready to welcome our military veterans into the ranks of their student body. Unavoidably, the cost of a four-year degree is on the rise. While there are a host of private grants, scholarships and financing available – active military, select reservists and National Guard members earn education benefits that will help make a post-service education more affordable.
Depending on where you attend school, your GI Benefits might just cover all of your expenses. For example, if you are attending a public college or university, you can expect to have your tuition covered and paid directly to your school. Additionally, the post 9/11 GI Bill provides a monthly housing allowance as well as an annual supply allowance.
In order to qualify for GI Benefits, you need to have served at least two years of active duty and have completed high school (or have a HS equivalency certificate). During your first year of active duty, your contribution needs to be $100 per month. You can also quality under VEAP (Veteran’s Educational Assistance Program). Once you have served and contributed the minimum to qualify, you are eligible to apply for benefits through the VA. Your initial application may take as long as 10 weeks, so allowing for enough time is critical.
Everyone’s life path is different – so while some soldiers look to enroll as soon as they are no longer serving, some may have other plans in mind. The GI Bill protects these plans as well, as veterans have 15 years to apply for benefits after their most recent period of active duty. Once your application is submitted, your benefits will cover up to your first 36 months of school.
There are so many options when expanding an education. Some higher learning institutions pride themselves on working with military personnel and veterans. St. Bonaventure University in New York boasts a strong ROTC program – but it also makes it easy for active personnel to put a degree on hold to serve overseas. Columbia Southern University in Alabama boasts an extensive selection of online degree programs as well as open enrollment, catering to the hectic schedules and unpredictable nature of military scheduling.
Colorado State University has a devoted team of advisors dedicated to assisting military personnel and veterans. So much that they even have a special “Military and Veteran Student Visit Day” next month. Drexel, in Philadelphia, PA, has a unbeatable online degree and course offering. Don’t forget to check out Touro University Worldwide – an online program that makes obtaining a degree easier for those of us who need to move around.
Between the GI Benefits and the institutions who are actively trying to work with veterans, now is a fantastic time to start a pursuit of a degree!