8 Smart Tips for Veterans Heading Back to School

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It’s Veteran's Day. Do you know what your GI Bill Educational Benefits are?

This post is by Angelia N. Millender, Broward College Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management.

On Veteran’s Day, we thank our nation’s military veterans and reservists for their service. But after we salute you with parades and speeches and special events, there’s much more those of us in higher education can do to honor your sacrifice.

We can help you plan for your future as a civilian by giving you the tools you need to make smart decisions about education and career training using your GI Bill benefits. We can encourage you to choose wisely when considering an institution of higher learning – so that tuition, fees, and even books and possibly housing may be paid by your benefits without the need to borrow money and be burdened by student loan debt.

Here’s what you need to know…

1. Consider the public colleges and universities in your state. The cost of tuition, fees, and books at a public community college or university does not exceed the educational benefits paid under the Post-9/11 GI Bill for those who qualify. Find details on the GI Bill website.

2. Don’t buy the hype. There are many quality institutions among public colleges and universities. Don’t be influenced by fancy marketing or late-night TV advertisements for schools whose claims sound too good to be true, and whose tuition far exceeds the GI Bill benefit. Also be aware that many community colleges now offer four-year degrees, as well as two-year degrees and career and technical certificates.

3. Look for schools with support services. Does the school have a “Military-Friendly” designation? Is there a veterans’ affairs coordinator and advisers to help you navigate the system? This type of assistance will give you the support you need to complete the program and get your degree.

4. Do your homework. Check out the websites of schools you’re considering. Look at their graduation rates and the pass rates on exams for certification in the fields you might want to pursue. Speak to an adviser and ask about employment prospects and about job placement in your area of interest.

5. Get ready to start. If your academic skills are a little rusty because you’ve been out of school for a while, a public community college is your best bet for remedial courses that will get you up to college level. If you’re not ready to start, there are programs that will help get you ready.

6. Ask the college to bridge the gap in benefits. For veterans who may have served in the military more than a decade ago and may have exhausted their Montgomery GI Bill benefits – or who have run out of time to use them – there may be ways that a public college or university can cover that gap through scholarships or other funding at no cost to the student.

7. Check out state laws that confer additional educational benefits. In addition to GI Bill benefits you have earned, you’ll find that some states offer additional educational benefits to veterans, such as a waiver of residence requirements at public colleges and universities.

8. Compute your return on investment. A smart decision is based on calculating the cost of your education in terms of the salary you will be able to earn after you complete your degree or certificate, and the amount you’ll need to repay if you have taken student loans.

Happy Veteran’s Day!

Stacy Johnson

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