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Veteran’s Campaign to Make Stanford More Veteran Friendly

stanford university

By Debbie Gregory.

Adam Behrendt is on a mission. The former U.S. Navy corpsman who enrolled as a transfer student at Stanford University is trying to persuade the university to change some of their policies to make the school more veteran friendly.

Behrendt enlisted in the Navy in 2007, after several years at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, was medically retired from the Navy in March 2015. He applied to Stanford, with the game plan of attending medical school.

Unfortunately, the way Stanford applied the education benefits available through Behrendt’s Post 9/11 GI Bill did not make it financially feasible for his wife to give up her job in Wisconsin and move to California.

Fortunately for Behrendt, he was able to get assistance from Service to School, an organization that helps military veterans apply to and succeed in college. Through his relationship with the non-profit, Behrendt began mentoring other veterans to help them navigate Stanford’s financial aid policies.

Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) provides both tuition assistance and a housing and living allowance to veterans in order for them to pursue postsecondary education.

Stanford charged roughly $72,000 for an undergraduate — $47,000 in tuition, $18,000 in room and board, and about $7,000 for supplies and fees.

Under VA policy at the time, the typical undergraduate veteran at Stanford would be eligible for more than $50,000 — roughly $25,000 in tuition and fees support and another $28,000 toward housing and living expenses.

For veterans who also earned need-based funds from Stanford, the university would apply the entire $53,000 from the VA, and reduce its own financial contributions as a result. Stanford was counting the housing allowance as a resource that the student veteran was bringing to the table in calculating financial aid.

Behrend thought it was not fair for the university to take $28,000 in VA funds to cover $18,000 in room and board.

Behrendt had become an accidental advocate, and because of his efforts,  Stanford’s general counsel noted in a letter to Behrendt that the university would no longer take more than the amount of the housing costs out of the VA’s living allowance, and that the university would not use an outside donor’s funds to meet a federal requirement that institutions match VA contributions under the Yellow Ribbon program.

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.

Veteran Student Tips for Using GI Bill Benefits

post 911 gi bill

By Debbie Gregory.

The GI Bill program provides the most generous school benefits paid to veteranss since the original bill was enacted in 1944. But many veteran students are getting off to a rocky start when it came to pursuing a college degree.

For-profit colleges have been popular among veterans, in part, because of offerings in skilled trades and flexibility such as online classes. But many of these schools have been called out for their treatment of veteran and active-duty military students, as well as their aggressive recruiting tactics.

The for-profit sector has among the highest student loan default rates and lowest graduation rates in higher education.

So for potential veteran students, there are three steps you should take when considering a for-profit school:

Make use of the GI Bill Comparison Tool: Veterans and active-duty military looking to understand how their benefits will apply to college costs can plug their information into the GI Bill Comparison Tool.

The GI Bill Comparison will let the student know if their potential college, university or vocational is a for-profit, public or private university, how much it costs, whether it meets the required guidelines to receive federal funding, how many GI Bill students there are, whether there is a student veteran group, a VetSuccess on campus, etc. For students worried about predatory practices at an institution, the school summary page includes the number of complaints against the institution and “caution flags,” which indicate that the school is under increased regulatory or legal scrutiny.

Be vigilant when it comes to any paperwork related to education benefits and any other financial aid. If something is promised, get it in writing. Be sure to know the different funding options, and what is a gift, and what is a loan.

Ask, ask ask! Don’t be shy to ask what percentage of their students find jobs in their chosen fields, if your units will transfer, what resources are available to veteran students, etc.

Your GI Bill benefits are just that; YOURS. Make sure you get the most out of the benefit that you worked so hard and risked so much to secure.

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.

Veteran Students Who Drop Out May Owe Repayment

debt

By Debbie Gregory.

Veteran students who attend school on the GI Bill may be facing monetary consequences if they fail to complete classes.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is trying to recoup more than $200 million that was overpaid when veterans dropped classes or failed to complete them, thus becoming ineligible for the tuition and living stipends.

And this information comes as a complete surprise to many of these students.

When a veteran enrolls in school, the government sends money for tuition and fees to the school, and sends housing and living stipends to the veteran. In theory, if the student drops or fails to complete a class, the VA scales back the benefits accordingly, and the student becomes responsible for any overpayments

In 2014, about one in every four GI Bill beneficiaries, or about 225,000 veterans, incurred an overpayment debt, averaging about $570. And in most cases, the veteran students are responsible for repaying the debt. The VA does not require veterans to verify their enrollment each month, causing a “significant time lapse” between when veterans drop courses and when the government learns about the enrollment change and can reassess payments.

VA officials have recouped more than half of the overpayments from fiscal 2014, but another $110 million from previous years is still uncollected, most of it from veterans.

While the VA has taken steps to address processing errors through technology improvements, quality assurance reviews, and training, the VA still needs to find better ways to communicate its policies to individual veterans. If more veterans are made aware of how the system works, chances are they would be more aware of how to avoid the pitfall. And when they do have the issue, the VA should notify them more promptly when an overpayment occurs, and also improve its system for verifying enrollment.

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: Legislation Expands Programs for Veteran-Students

Veteran Students

By Joe Silva

On February 26, 2015, legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate that would reauthorize and improve a grant program designed to assist colleges and universities in establishing, maintaining, improving, and operating Veteran Student Centers.

The Senate bill is titled The Veteran Education Empowerment Act of 2015 S.604 and was sponsored by Senator Jon Tester from Montana.

According to the text in S.604, Congress found that over 1 million Veterans attended college in 2014. Veteran-students face unique challenges that many traditional and even other non-traditional students don’t, including age differences, significant time away from academic life, obligations to their families, and even service-connected disabilities.

Congressionally sponsored studies reported that many Veterans struggle in the classroom and often feel isolated and under served on campus. This leads many Veterans to drop out of college before they complete their desired degree or certification program.

Veterans of the Post-9/11 era have the highest unemployment rate among Veterans. Dropping out of college does not help to improve this statistic.

Studies have shown that among the most beneficial resources for Veteran-students are each other. Veterans on campus provide each other with comradery, a sense of belonging, and serve as mentors to each other. Congressional studies and studies carried out by student groups and educators concur; providing a centralized location on campus for Veteran-students for information, resources, and a hub to connect to other Veterans has proven to increase their academic success.

The Veteran Education Empowerment Act of 2015 would empower the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education to award no more than thirty grants to institutions of higher learning that have a significant population of Veteran-students, and students who are current members of the active-duty military, National Guard or Reserves. The grants would be awarded for periods of four years and will not exceed $500,000 each.

The use of grant funding is to be used to establish, maintain, improve, and operate a Veteran Student Center. Grant recipients can also use portions of the funds to carry out supportive services for Veterans on their campus, such as assistance with admissions and transfer credits.

At the time it was introduced, S.604 was read twice and then referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

As a Veteran-student, I can see the benefits in approving the Veteran Education Empowerment Act of 2015. Most of the rules and policies for admissions and tuition payments are unique for Veterans, and not every staff member on every campus knows this. Veteran-students need a place on campus to go to get all of their questions answered by a staff member who knows how their individual school processes benefits.

On behalf of those who served, who are now or will someday be enrolled in college, please contact your senator and tell them to back S.604, the Veteran Education Empowerment Act of 2015 for their constituency.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans 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 Board, information 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: Legislation Expands Programs for Veteran-Students: By Joe Silva