If you’re entitled to the benefits of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you might be wondering how to choose the best education program for your current station of life. Whether you follow other service members or forge your own path, you’ll find that education opportunities with veterans’ benefits abound.
The GI Bill, Then and Now
The Post-9/11 GI Bill, which took effect in August 2009, was projected to improve veterans’ ability to afford four-year institutions because of its increased benefits and new allowances for housing and textbooks. Under the former bill, the Montgomery GI Bill, the majority of veterans used their education benefits at for-profit and community colleges. And in the first year of the new GI bill, attendance patterns were pretty much the same.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), under the old bill, nine of the top 15 institutions that enrolled more than 1,000 students who used GI bill benefits were for-profit schools, and three were community colleges. Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, seven of the 15 were for-profits, and five were community colleges. Seven of these top 15 colleges are largely online, and many of the top 15 operate satellite campuses near military bases.
Bringing Veterans’ Benefits to Private Schools
The accessibility of four-year colleges for veterans is not a pipe dream, however. Under the Montgomery GI Bill, veterans’ benefits were adjusted annually on the basis of average undergraduate tuition. The new GI bill gives veterans up to the full amount of tuition and fees at the most expensive public college in their state. It also provides a monthly housing allowance and an annual stipend for textbooks.
Plus, the Post-9/11 GI Bill’s Yellow Ribbon program actively seeks to help veterans attend private colleges, graduate schools, and out-of-state public schools. The program allows schools to contribute up to 50 percent of a veteran’s unmet tuition and fee charges, and the VA matches that amount.
Reaching Out to Veterans
When veterans make their college decision, a number of factors come into play: cost, convenience, location, comprehensive support system, welcoming environment, and large veteran population. Many service members turn to MyEducation.com and The CollegeBound Network’s Military Education channel to learn about schools that offer the amenities they seek.
Veterans might choose schools that have traditionally been geared toward working adults seeking career-oriented training rather than private-school prestige. With that in mind, many schools — four-year colleges in particular — are working to become more military-friendly. Some schools are opening offices to provide veteran-specific services, hiring staff to assist and advise military students. Others are providing outreach and vocational training, conducting research, and engaging in nonpartisan advocacy for veterans. Some offer open houses and online and on-campus orientation programs for veterans.
In addition, some forward-thinking schools are tailoring courses to veterans in order to refocus their training, talents, and experience to other areas, such as civil engineering and health care. Many offer veteran-specific scholarships.
Consider your Post-9/11 GI Bill education options carefully to find the best match for your military experience and career goals. Ultimately, any school you attend should be honored to serve you in response to your faithful service to our country.