Perhaps the greatest gift we can give ourselves and our children is an advanced education.
My oldest is finishing up her first college semester and it has been an eye-opening experience for both of us. Luckily, her chosen school is extremely military friendly. A tour of the campus included the opportunity to meet with a military veteran turned school administrator and ask the litany of questions we had compiled.
If you are a service member, veteran, military spouse or military family member looking to further your education, make sure you take advantage of the benefits that military affiliation can bring.
If enrolling at a military-friendly college is on your list of things to do, here are 6 things to look for when considering an university:
Is This College a Yellow Ribbon School?
Established by the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, the Yellow Ribbon Program can help veterans and children of active duty service members to offset the cost of college tuition. Typically, GI Bill benefits will pay for tuition and fees at public institutions, but are limited to a nationally capped amount for private institutions (currently, just under $22,000 per academic year).
Universities and colleges participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program enter into an agreement with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for additional funds. A Yellow Ribbon school will contribute a specified amount of money toward tuition and fees, an amount then matched by the VA.
Not all private universities participate in the program, so if the cost of getting a degree, even with GI Bill benefits, seems out of reach consider looking at a Yellow Ribbon school to help offset the costs.
You can find more information about the Yellow Ribbon program and a list of participating colleges on the VA website.
Does This College Have a Student Veteran Affairs Office or a Veteran Student Organization?
A quick tip-off that a school is military friendly is the availability of staff and personnel dedicated to veteran and military students. It’s always nice to talk to someone who has been there done that.
Student Veteran Affairs staff members can be tremendous sources of information when you are trying to figure out the intricacies of the GI Bill and campus life.
Some colleges even offer veteran-only study halls and sponsor veteran and military-family oriented social events.
Does This College Allow for In-State Tuition Rates for Military Personnel and Families?
Surprisingly, at least for me, not all schools offer in-state tuition rates for military dependents. Most schools will offer in-state tuition for active duty dependents with a copy of the sponsor’s orders.
Thanks to a new law, passed just last year, in-state tuition is now guaranteed for all veterans and their dependents for the 3 years following separation from the military.
However, outside of that time frame, availability for in-state tuition depends on the institution.
Are There Plenty of Options for Housing within GI Bill Housing Allowance?
In addition to paying tuition and fees, the Post-9/11 GI Bill also allows the children of active-duty service members, veterans and military dependents to receive a housing allowance to help offset room and board expenses. Typically, that amount is the E-5 with dependents BAH rate for the ZIP code for your college or university.
Pro-tip: Make sure there are several options for housing within that range of pay. Military-friendly universities will sometimes also reserve a set number of on-campus housing options for military dependents and veterans, but you won’t know unless you ask.
Do They Offer Flexible Schedules?
For active-duty service members or working veterans and dependents, flexible scheduling options are a must. Many universities and colleges offer short-term course study or online class options.
Even some of the largest universities offer online courses, so don’t assume just because it isn’t local, it isn’t military friendly. Some also offer discounts to military service members and their dependents for online programs. Again, ask about a flexible schedule when meeting with university representatives.
Does This College Offer Credit for Military Experience?
For veterans and active duty service members, you can save a ton of time and expenses by using your on-the-job training as substitutes for some degree-required classes.
Many universities and colleges will evaluate your military training records and award you college credit for things you already know. You may earn credit for basic training.
There may be a small fee for transcript evaluation, but many military-friendly colleges will waive that fee for military-affiliated students.
As someone who only recently earned her bachelor’s degree, my hat is off to anyone who is willing to make that commitment.
No matter the university or college you chose, take the time to find out what opportunities and options they have for military students. The resources are out there, so take advantage of them.