From Serving to Studying: Veterans’ Education Benefits

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Get tips on how to make the most of education benefits for veterans.

Did you know that more veterans than ever are using their education benefits? In fact, nationwide, the number of veterans using these benefits increased by about 67 percent between 2012 and 2009, according to McClatchy DC. Taking advantage of these benefits is a great way to help ensure a successful transition back to civilian life and work toward long-term goals. From college classes to on-the-job training, a world of educational opportunities awaits veterans and their families—as does a range of benefits to help fund those opportunities.

Here is how to make the most of the benefits available to you:

1. Do your homework. Start by learning all you can about the key Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) programs available under the GI Bill, which include the following:

Post-9/11 GI Bill. This program offers 36 months of tuition and training benefits to those who served after September 10, 2001. Unused benefits can be transferred to your spouse or children.
Montgomery GI Bill. Veterans who contributed $1,200 to the program while on Active Duty can get funding for higher education and training. You may qualify for one of the four categories of eligibility, depending on when you enlisted and how long you served.

Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP). If you made VEAP contributions from your military pay from April 1, 1987 onward, the government will match those amounts two-for-one, up to a maximum of $300 a month for full-time training. Benefits may be used for a college degree program, technical courses, apprenticeships and more.

Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment (VR&E). This program helps veterans with a service-connected disability prepare for and find work. Benefits include financial assistance for college, technical or business school, on-the-job training, employment counseling and rehabilitation services. Vets.gov offers an online GI Bill Comparison Tool to help you research approved education programs and estimate your benefit amounts.

2. Weigh options carefully. Selecting a benefit could make you ineligible for other benefits, so choose carefully. For example, deciding to receive Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits means you’ll have to say no to Montgomery GI Bill funding.

3. Watch the clock. Once your military service ends, you have a limited time to use your education benefits—15 years for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and 10 years for the Montgomery GI Bill. However, your time limit is reset if you re-enter Active Duty for more than 90 days.

4. Follow the money. It might take some digging, but you can find a wealth of education funding out there beyond your GI Bill benefits. You may be eligible for other state, federal and private education programs and scholarships.

For example:
Starbucks® offers free college tuition to veteran employees, spouses and children at the online campus of Arizona State University. Troops to Teachers is a U.S. Department of Defense program that helps eligible veterans begin new careers as teachers. Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) offers veteran scholarships of up to $5,000, along with guidance on receiving VA benefits. To help you find the funding you need, try military.com’s Scholarship Finder.

5. Take time to plan. Your education benefits can be used for a range of options, from a full college degree to technical training, on-the-job apprenticeships and work-study programs, and even flight training. Having so many possibilities can seem overwhelming, so make sure you think about your personal career goals and the types of learning environments that are the best fit for you. You’ve worked hard to earn your benefits, so plan carefully to ensure you make the most of them. If you need additional financial help, consider whether a private student loan from Navy Federal is right for you.

Veteran Student Benefits

Source: Navy Federal

Maximize Your Education Benefits

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Black female army soldier with backpack and books

Don’t waste one of the greatest benefits of military service: a college education. Use these tips to get started and to make the most of the educational benefits you earned.

Ask How, What, Where

You’re now out of the military and want to attend school on the GI Bill. Where do you go? Ask yourself three questions when deciding on a school: 

How will you attend school: on campus or online? Evaluate your employment schedule, family circumstances and a commute. You might have to relocate to be close to a university campus. Some traditional universities have begun offering online degrees, and many for-profit institutions specialize in online education. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of taking classes online , and pick a method of learning that best suits your lifestyle.

What do you want to study? This question should help narrow down where you want to get an education. Schools offer different kinds of programs, degrees and certificates, and not all are equal. Some value programs over others or have particularly strong departments. Identify what you want to study early so you can save credits by not changing degree plans in the future.  

Where do you want to be when you graduate? In the competitive job market, where you went to school may help or hinder your chances at employment. A degree from a private school in one state might be prestigious in its borders but overlooked elsewhere. Choosing a nationally recognized school can help when employers evaluate your educational background.

  1. The GI Bill as an Investment

The GI Bill does not last forever. You are granted 36 academic months to finish your degree plan—whether it’s to get a certificate, undergraduate, or graduate degree. The bill comes to you on behalf of taxpayers, but it’s not free and should not be wasted. Many people change majors in the course of their life, but it’s a risk when it comes to the GI Bill. There is not much room to adjust and take different classes once your basics are out of the way. Weigh your different degree options and make your decision before taking major-centric courses. Doing so will minimize the risk of exhausting benefits and paying out of pocket for the rest of your classes.

Be prepared to research the quality of education offered by the school you want to attend. While Veterans usually don’t need federal student loans while using the GI Bill, default rates of individual schools can help indicate the ability to secure a job that pays high enough to pay down loans. The Department of Education’s National Center of Education Statistics utilizes a school search directory to evaluate schools on these grounds. Look up schools you’re interested in and find out how graduates fare after they walk the stage.

  1. Anticipate the Unpredictable Job Landscape

Another reason to take post-military education seriously is the unforgiving job market. Veterans leaving the service after deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan—those most able to take advantage of education benefits—face a disproportional amount of unemployment compared to civilians. Veterans face a civilian workforce that doesn’t understand their skills and worries about the burden of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress. And according to a VA-sponsored study, Vets often earn less than their civilian counterparts, even with degrees in hand. The takeaway is this: Veterans already enter the workforce at a disadvantage, so make your education bullet point on your résumé stand out just as much as your military experience.

  1. Trust, but Verify

Schools will always welcome your dollars, whether you pay them through loans, scholarships or GI Bill tuition. Unfortunately, some schools use aggressive and questionable practices to enroll students and deliberately exaggerate the earning potential of degrees earned. Resources like Payscale can help determine earning power right out of school and break down how much you stand to make depending on the type of college you attend: public, private, and for-profit. If an enrollment adviser says you will make big money after graduating, think back to the used car lots that litter the roads outside of military bases. They might be selling the equivalent of a car with 200,000 miles for a low interest rate of 18 percent.

  1. Beware of Questionable Research Aids

Go to Google and search for “GI Bill schools.” The first link you get isn’t a page run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The first result is GIBill.com, and it uses the name of the most recognized public education program in existence to its financial benefit. It appears to be a legitimate site for information, but a cursory search of its privacy policy shows it is owned by an online marketing firm that, according to a major business publication, specializes in directing students to for-profit schools through its page. It’s a questionable marketing strategy that seeks to legitimize a page that serves little purpose other than to funnel student Veterans and convince them their options for education are limited to their advertisers. There are 6,500 schools across the country that allow GI Bill benefits; only use VA’s school locator to find qualifying programs. Avoid suspicious websites drowning in advertisements.

  1. Reintegration is Key

The challenges of schoolwork paled in comparison to the difficulties of finding footing in an unfamiliar civilian world—it can take only a few classes to start to realize you can be a changed person after service. As painful as it was, the reintegration process can expose you to different people and ideas that can put you on a path to feeling normal again. For many Veterans, education after the military acts as a first exposure to college and the first challenge of reintegration. Therefore, the campus becomes training wheels for the professional world and allows you time to comfortably adjust to the slower pace of civilian life. If you’re undecided between a physical campus and an online school, consider the benefits of surrounding yourself with other students before you enroll.

Do What’s Best for You

The quality of education a Veteran receives with his or her benefits is a serious matter that can’t be taken lightly, and it is with these tips that we hope Veterans can fully maximize their hard-earned benefits. The GI Bill is a return on an investment that was measured in sweat and blood, often drained on foreign soil. Make it count.

Source: va.gov

Standard Operating Procedures for the Military Transition Process

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Veteran looking at iPad

By Brian Niswander

For the past decade, I’ve conducted interviews and collected data from thousands of veterans and spouses about their transition out of the military and into the civilian workforce.

After countless hours analyzing survey data and comments, I’m convinced that a successful transition embodies five key elements.

After making this discovery, I started thinking about my time in uniform and the importance of adhering to Standard Operating Procedures.

I couldn’t help but remember how we had procedures and checklists for important mission activities, and I think we owe the same level of rigor to veterans as they consider their future transition.

Based upon extensive research conducted by the team at Military-Transition.org, I developed a 5-step process to reduce confusion and increase the chances for success during the transition process:

#1 – Start Preparing Early

The data is clear and the majority of veterans surveyed (84%) indicate that starting early is critical to a successful transition. Unfortunately, this is seldom as easy as it sounds. Today’s ops-tempo requires military members to focus on the mission for the majority of their day. While finding time for things outside of the mission and family can be challenging, the advice from veterans is simple—you must find a way. There’s nothing unpatriotic about thinking and planning for what follows your military service. I tell serve members to start considering what’s next at least 24 months ahead of their transition. Starting this far ahead will pay dividends and will enable you to begin focusing on those transition elements which require time and effort to accomplish.

#2 – Have a Transition Plan

Your initial plan doesn’t have to be complex, but should include goals, enabling activities, and timelines. These can change as you progress, but you need to have a starting point. Your first goal might be to research and learn more about industries, organizations or positions that align with your existing skills. Maybe you’d like to do something completely different in the civilian workforce and need to begin exploring new and different opportunities which are outside your comfort zone. Activities may include reading books, journals, blogs and newsletters about these fields. Those considering an educational program might explore what programs are available and what career opportunities result from attaining that degree, certification, or license. In all cases, start connecting with those who transitioned before you, and others who can assist and might become mentors along the way.

#3 – Build Your Network

Of all the advice I’ve gathered over the past decade, this is the most recommended element of a successful transition. You can utilize social media (LinkedIn) and identify individuals to connect with, organizations of interest, and potential opportunities to learn about. You should also become active in community groups and build contacts through face-to-face networking. Engage with other military members, veterans, and civilians to understand their career experiences, education, and training programs. Successful networking not only helps you learn about post-military life, but it will also help you learn a new language which I call “the language of civilians.” Trust me, you need to speak their language—this is critical for the next element of a successful transition.

#4 – Learn to Translate your Skills

Of all the elements within the transition process, this activity will require the most effort. Translating your skills results in a strong resume, good interviewing skills, and the ability to demonstrate your value to a potential employer. Practice is essential to success and you must consistently demonstrate how your skills add value when networking. Ask for feedback and make continual improvements. This will require time to accomplish, but it’s worth the investment.

#5 – Be Patient

Almost half of the veterans surveyed (48%) claim their transition was ‘more difficult than expected’ and more than half (59%) say it ‘required more time than expected’. Take the time, do the research, build your network, learn how to translate your skills, and be patient along the way. You didn’t become a soldier, sailor, airperson, marine or coast guard person overnight, so don’t expect the transition to be quick. Remember that patience and persistence are key throughout the transition process.

Brian Niswander is the Founder of Military-Transition.org, an organization that uses data analytics and visualizations to assist military members with their transition into the civilian workforce. He started Military-Transition.org after identifying a need for data-driven-solutions which inform and guide veteran decision making during the reintegration process. Brian was an Air Force intelligence officer and now provides ‘transition intelligence’ to educate military families. His work has been featured in numerous publications along with radio and podcast interviews. His background includes analytic and leadership positions within the consumer goods industry along with management, strategic planning and marketing in public and private organizations. Brian has an MBA from the University of Notre Dame and a BS in Behavioral Science/Human Factors Engineering from the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Kean University Student-Veteran Receives K-9 Service Dog

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K-9 Keen and Jason Pryor stand outside in a group photos with student body members

Jason Pryor of Elizabeth received the K-9, named Keen, as a gift from the Kean Office of Student Government.

A special Veterans Day ceremony was held on Kean University’s Union campus as senior Jason Pryor, a U.S. Army veteran, introduced the K-9 service dog that he received through an on-campus fundraiser.

Pryor, a senior from Elizabeth majoring in exercise science, did tours in Iraq and Honduras and suffers from PTSD. He received the K-9, named Keen, at the start of the Fall semester as a gift from the Kean Office of Student Government.

“Being with Keen has taught me to be more patient,” said Pryor, whose dog accompanies him to class. “Keen is used as a measure to help prevent me from going through the symptoms and effects of spiraling down, by me tending to his needs and having him tend to me.”

Kean is ranked first in the nation among large public schools for its programs supporting student-veterans, according to the Military Friendly Schools survey.

Student Government raised nearly $20,000 to support service dogs through Rebuilding Warriors, a volunteer non-profit organization whose mission is to provide trained service dogs to veterans. The bulk of the funds raised went toward training Pryor’s dog, and the rest was donated to Rebuilding Warriors to help train other K-9 dogs.

At the ceremony held outside Miron Student Center, Vito Zajda, director of Veteran Student Services at Kean and a U.S. Coast Guard veteran, called Pryor a remarkable student.

“He has been a big support and influential person in our program,” Zajda said. “He has helped open our eyes about how the University can best support its vets.”

Vice President of Rebuilding Warriors Jeff Mullins, also a veteran, said post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that can’t be seen by others. ”It’s invisible, stays with you your entire life, and it’s not easy sometimes,” he said. “Our goal is to provide veterans and first responders with a service dog to help them achieve their new normal.”

The University’s Veterans Day event included a color guard, a performance of the national anthem by the Kean Gospel Choir, and the presentation of other honors.

Juan Leon Torres, a senior from Spotswood also studying exercise science and a U.S. Navy veteran, received the 2019 Kean Veteran’s Award for OutstandingK-9 Keen service dog to U.S. Army Veteran pictured sitting next to his new owner Mentor. He develops transition opportunities and initiatives, and mentors a student-veteran each semester.

“Being a veteran and going back to school is super hard because you go from one community to a different lifestyle,” Torres said.

Zajda noted that it is important to support veterans at all times. “The importance of Veterans Day is to recognize that it’s 365 days a year, as veterans go through different highs and lows in their lives,” he said.

K-9 Keen, the service dog accompanying student-veteran Jason Pryor (pictured at top, left of center, in red shirt), is part of the Kean University community. The Kean Office of Student Government raised funds to donate the dog.

About Kean University

Founded in 1855, Kean University is one of the largest metropolitan institutions of higher education in the region, with a richly diverse student, faculty and staff population. Kean continues to play a key role in the training of teachers and is a hub of educational, technological and cultural enrichment serving more than 16,000 students. The University’s six undergraduate colleges offer more than 50 undergraduate degrees over a full range of academic subjects. The Nathan Weiss Graduate College offers six doctoral degree programs and more than 80 options for graduate study leading to master’s degrees, professional diplomas or certifications. With campuses in Union, Toms River, Jefferson and Manahawkin, New Jersey, and Wenzhou, China, Kean University furthers its mission by providing an affordable and accessible world-class education. Visit kean.edu.

Veterans Are Finding Lasting Peace After Taking These Free Journeys into Nature for Months at a Time

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veteran on a hike looking out at the wilderness in the distance standing near a cliff

With countless US ex-service members struggling to readjust to civilian life following their deployment, more and more veterans are finding unparalleled success in alternative forms of rehabilitation and therapy.

Warrior Expeditions is a nonprofit that has proven nature to be an effective treatment for veterans suffering from PTSD. The organization helps veterans overcome their trauma by sending them on longterm nature excursions lasting two to six months.

The charity, which also provides all the gear and supplies necessary for the journeys, typically helps 30 to 40 veterans every year with about 10 different expeditions—all of which are facilitated at no cost to the vets.

The organization’s recently concluded 53-day trip through North Carolina is the first time that Warrior Expeditions has incorporated paddling, biking, and hiking into one of their excursions.

Marine Corps veteran Sean Gobin was inspired to launch the charity after he returned to the US in 2012 following several combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. He then found peace and healing by hiking all 2,185 miles of the Appalachian Trail—and he knew that he wanted to share the experience with other veterans just like him.

There is no shortage of evidence on how spending time in nature can positively impact one’s physical and mental health. For the veterans participating in the Warrior Expedition outings, these therapeutic perks are also supplemented by the benefits of exercise, meditation, and sleeping outdoors.

Continue on to the Good News Network to read the complete article.

Find your new job: Retraining slots open for more than 2,700 airmen

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Little Rock Air Force Base

The Air Force this month has opened up retraining opportunities for as many as 2,773 active-duty airmen across its career fields in fiscal 2020.

According to retraining statistics provided by the Air Force Personnel Center, there are 1,708 slots available for first-term airmen to retrain into new jobs. There are also 797 retraining slots for staff sergeants, 258 slots for technical sergeants, and 10 slots available for master sergeants. In all, there are 111 career fields that need airmen.

That’s more than the 2,597 retraining opportunities the Air Force unveiled for fiscal 2019, which included 1,634 first-term airmen, 730 staff sergeants, 202 technical sergeants, and 31 master sergeants, and remains far higher than the retraining opportunities in the prior two years.

There are also 1,435 airmen in 63 career fields that are overmanned who need to retrain into other jobs. Only second-term airmen are eligible to retrain out.

In an Aug. 12 tweet announcing the opening of 2020 retraining, AFPC said that phase 1 of the non-commissioned officer retraining program, or NCORP, is open through Dec. 1.

If the Air Force does not get enough volunteers to retrain, it could move into a “mandatory retraining” phase.

AFPC said that these statistics, provided Aug. 19, are a snapshot in time that can fluctuate as needs change throughout the year.

The career field with the most retraining-in opportunities is 3P011 security forces, which has 312 vacancies among first-term airmen and staff sergeants. Education and training airmen in the 3F211 career field are short 140 first-term and staff sergeant airmen, and 4N011 aerospace medical service airmen have 231 vacancies in those categories.

There are also 120 first-term and staff sergeant vacancies among 1C111 air traffic controllers, as well as 112 1B411 cyber warfare operations vacancies and 100 1C311 command and control operations vacancies.

Continue on to the Air Force Times to read the complete article.

Some Disabled Vets to Get Automatic Student Loan Debt Forgiveness

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Paralyzed veterans seated in their wheelchairs

President Donald J. Trump recently signed a presidential memorandum intended to streamline the process of erasing federal student loan debt for totally and permanently disabled veterans.

Through a process called Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Discharge, veterans will now have their student loan debt discharged unless they decide to opt out of the process.

The Department of Education anticipates notifying more than 25,000 eligible veterans and continuing the discharge process on a quarterly basis.

The executive order builds on improvements to the TPD discharge process implemented by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie.

The education department established a data matching process with the VA in April 2018 to identify totally and permanently disabled veterans who are eligible for student loan relief. Since then, this process has resulted in more than $650 million in student loan relief to more than 22,000 eligible vets.

Veterans will reserve the right to weigh their options and to decline loan discharge within 60 days of notification of their eligibility. They may elect to decline loan relief either because of potential tax liability in some states or because receiving loan relief could make it more difficult to take future student loans.

Eligible veterans who do not opt out of the program will have their remaining student loan balance discharged and will be reimbursed for payments made following the date of their disability discharge.

Carrie Wofford, president of Veterans Education Success, issued a brief statement calling the administration’s action “a welcome development on an issue we have been leading since November 2018.”

She said what began as a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the education department grew to include advocacy by military and veteran service organizations, 51 state attorneys general and bipartisan Congressional support and “has led to student loan debt relief for thousands of disabled veterans.”

“We strongly urge the Education Department to complete these loan discharges by September 30, 2019,” the statement concluded.

Continue on to diverseeducation.com to read the complete article.

Make Your Next Job Fair Be Your Last

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veteran standing outside convention center wearing a suit carrying a briefcase

Job fairs are a great opportunity to network and be proactive in the employment process. In order to make the most of these opportunities, set realistic expectations for what you hope to achieve.

Prepare for the job fair like you would for an interview, have a plan for when you arrive, make a good impression with the recruiters, and be sure to follow up with any connections you make.

Here are some other ways to make the most of your next job fair:

•    Research: The week prior to a job fair, find out which companies are participating and learn more about them. What are some interesting things the company is currently working on? Does the company have new leadership or a new product? These tidbits can be used as conversation starters that will impress a recruiter and possibly open the door to a new opportunity for you.

•    Dress for an interview: Job fairs typically involve on-the-spot interviews, so present yourself as you would for any other kind of interview. A suit is most appropriate, even if you’re applying for a technical job. It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed.

•    Prepare: For your top employment choices, consider preparing folders that include your resume, cover letter, recommendations and appropriate work samples.

•    Carry plenty of business cards: Give the business cards to recruiters and other job seekers you meet. They need not be expensive or fancy. A simple design will do. Make sure they contain your name and contact information: phone number, email and address.

•    Organize: You may want to carry a portfolio or clipboard to easily manage and collect information. Be sure to have a pen for taking notes.

•    Relax, breathe and smile: Do your best to make a strong first impression.

•    Walk around: Get the lay of the land, see where your top companies are located and plan your connection strategy.

•    Network: Talk to other job seekers and ask questions. Find out what types of positions they’re seeking, and tell them a little about yourself. You never know who they might know, or if you might be able to help them with an introduction. Don’t hesitate to exchange information if you make a connection.

•    Visit booths: You may want to start by practicing your personal pitch with recruiters who represent companies that may not be your top choice. Have a list of companies you really want to visit and check them off as you go. This will keep you from introducing yourself to the same recruiter twice by accident. Listen to the “interviews” in front of you to get an idea what to expect and develop questions based on what you hear.

Speaking to recruiters
•    Connect: Make eye contact, smile, state your name and shake her or his hand. Use a prepared elevator speech—a 10-second summary of your bio, your skills and your achievements. Make sure to rehearse the speech until it becomes comfortable.

•    Listen: Pay attention, respond to questions and ask for more information. When appropriate, hand your resume to the recruiter and pause for them to do a quick review. Be prepared for questions about specific examples of your experience.

•    Keep it brief: Recruiters are typically swamped, so be mindful that your conversation may be limited to a few minutes. If appropriate, ask questions about next steps, applicant qualifications or any suggestions they may have for you.

•    Get recruiter contact information: Request a business card, and if one is not available, ask the recruiter for their email address. Conclude the conversation by thanking them for their time.

•    Step aside: Make time to write conversation notes before you move on to the next recruiter. If the previous recruiter mentioned she went to Florida State, capture that information. If she told you the company will hire for your desired position soon, write it down. Summarize your job fair experiences immediately in order to take full advantage of the event.

•    Call or email: After a few days, call or send an email, thanking the recruiters for their time and the information they provided. If you send an email to the recruiter who mentioned she went to Florida State, it is appropriate to write, “I’m the administrative assistant at the job fair who discussed Florida State with you.” That reminder could help her recall the conversation. Just taking the time to follow up will separate you from many job fair attendees.

•    Stay in contact: If the recruiter responds back to you, stay in contact. Keep an eye open for articles about their organization or industry and don’t hesitate to forward them on with a note. If you see the perfect job for you in their organization, and you’re qualified, apply for the position and then email the recruiter and let him or her know you applied.

•    Build your network: If you connected with other job seekers and traded contact information, you should follow up with them as well. You never know when they might have a job prospect for you, or vice versa.

If you need information or personalized assistance with your employment search, or have questions about education opportunities, visit the Military OneSource SECO page, or call 800-342-9647 to talk with a career coach.

A Guide to Pursuing an MBA

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veteran student

By Ron Kness

Whether going to school or working for a company, an important component to success is fitting in and feeling like you belong there.

If the school or business is veteran friendly, you will feel like you are “part of the family”—just like when you were serving. Others around you will understand the military lingo that you still use.

They can relate to your experiences when you need someone to talk to.

And if you have this comfort level, you will do better in your coursework or at your job.

Even though the MBA program or job may seem like a perfect fit in the beginning, you’ll soon question if you made the right choice if that veteran friendliness is lacking.

Is Your MBA program military friendly?

Choosing an MBA degree program is an important educational and career decision. After all, an advanced degree serves as a key to career advancement—with the company, position and experience being other factors. Just the difference in starting wage between having an undergraduate and MBA degree is significant—$54,000 versus $70,000 (minimum) respectively. Graduates from the top MBA programs start at six figures right out of school. Run the salary difference between the two types of degrees out over a 30-year career and the number is staggering.

But the first mission is choosing an MBA program. While only you can make the final choice, here is a thought-provoking checklist to help you arrive at a decision:

Does the school have a veterans’ association chapter on campus?

Once out of the military, veterans miss the comradery. Schools having a veterans’ association on campus not only gives veterans a place to meet, but gives the school administration ideas on how to make a veteran’s experience better while at their school.

Is the MBA program also offered online?

Many veteran students are also stay-at-home dads, struggle with PTSD or just like the flexibility of being able to study whenever the time fits into their busy schedule, so an MBA program being offered online can be a deciding factor. More and more, schools are offering the same MBA program both on-campus and online … even with the same curriculum.

Is the school part of the Yellow Ribbon Program?

This can be a true indicator of just how much a school supports veterans. If they support an unlimited number of graduate students with a maximum contribution of at least $9,000 or more per year per student, they have a great Yellow Ribbon Program. It actually ends up being twice that amount because the VA will match whatever contribution the school provides – in effect doubling the amount.

Is the MBA cost-effective?

While cost won’t be much of an issue if attending a public school under the Post 9/11 GI Bill or a private school under the same GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon Program, it’s a primary consideration if not using either. While going the cheapest route is not always a good decision, going the most expensive may not be either. Choose a route that will get you the best education that you can use to reach your career goals.

Does the school have an accreditation that is recognized by the career field?

Some of the for-profit schools were in the news lately where graduates discovered their school’s accreditation wasn’t recognized by their chosen career field. Not only was it costly to get their degree but not any of it was of value in getting the job they wanted.

Funding MBA Programs for Veterans

Post 9/11 GI Bill

For veterans having entitlement left from their Post 9/11 GI Bill, this can be a major source of MBA funding. When shopping for schools, check the Weam’s School Search to see if the MBA program is in the school’s list of programs—double check by asking the question when visiting the school.

With the GI Bill, the VA pays the school directly up to the resident tuition cost and eligible fees. Monthly, students receive a housing allowance determined by the zip code of the school and number of credits taken. Also students receive up to $1,000 per academic year in a book stipend.

One housing allowance difference to be aware of is for students taking all online courses—in this case students are limited to about half of what they would get if attending classes on campus. A loophole that still exists is to take one class per semester that can be applied to your degree plan (and the rest of your credits that semester online) to get the increased housing amount.

Yellow Ribbon Program

To be eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program, students must use the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Under this program, the school declares to the VA how much they will waive in tuition as well as how many students they will accept into their YRP each year, the degree levels covered and the maximum contribution per student. The VA pledges to pay an equal contributed amount.

The Weam’s School Search shows on the first page if the school is a Yellow Ribbon School or not, or you can visit the VA’s Yellow Ribbon School website to search by school.

Source: affordablecollegesonline.org

From One Battlefield to Another: 3 graduate programs for vets interested in politics

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Syracuse University

By Tom McCuin
ClearanceJobs.com

Thinking about running for office? There’s no better way to “put your money where your mouth is” than by throwing your hat in the ring.

Military service has always been a good starting point for entry into politics in America. Americans traditionally love war heroes, however broad the definition of that term might be. From George Washington, who was not only the commander of the Continental Army but a veteran of the French-Indian War, to George W. Bush, a Texas Air National Guard pilot. Thirty-two of the 44 men who have held the presidency served in uniform at some point, with 12 of them as general officers.

One of the high-water marks for veteran political activity was the election of 1946, the first held after the end of World War II. Seventy war veterans were elected to Congress that year, including three future presidents: John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon, and Gerald R. Ford.

There are currently 96 veterans of all stripes serving in Congress—77 in the House and 19 in the Senate—but only 19 are freshmen. I believe we need to raise that number.

If you’re a veteran who wants to make a difference in politics, whether at the local, state, or national level, there are several programs where you can put your Post-9/11 G.I Bill benefits to use.

These programs give you the technical knowledge necessary to get a head start on your potential opponents, whoever they may be.

Syracuse University Veterans in Politics Program

Syracuse University is the newest entry in this field. Banking giant JP Morgan Chase & Co. (where retired Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno is a senior advisor) provided a grant to Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs to begin the program.

Mike Haynie, executive director of Syracuse’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families and vice chancellor for its strategic initiatives and innovation, said, “We hope to create the opportunity to put the veterans who participate in the program on a path to enacting their aspiration for office.” Syracuse participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which covers the difference between Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits and the cost of tuition, and has a robust veteran services office.

University of San Francisco Masters in Public Leadership

In conjunction with the Veterans Campaign, a non-partisan organization dedicated to preparing veterans to hold political office, the University of San Francisco runs a hybrid program of online courses and weekend seminars. The program leads to a MFA degree in public leadership. It’s designed to prepare all students, but especially veterans, for political office as well as for careers in legislative affairs, campaign management, advocacy and civic leadership.

The seminars are available in both San Francisco and the Washington, D.C. area. Like many professional graduate programs, the faculty come more from professional life than academia—a must when discussing the nuts and bolts of getting elected. Prominent among the adjunct faculty is Patrick Murphy, the first Iraq veteran elected to Congress.

George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management

The George Washington University. The Graduate School of Political Management was the first of its kind in the country. It began in New York in 1987, branching out to Washington in 1991. It formally became part of GWU in 1995.

If you want to learn about politics from the people who actually practice and study it alongside people who are currently working in it, then GSPM is for you.

The program offers master of professional studies degrees in three areas: political management, legislative affairs, and strategic public relations. Political management would be the best choice for would-be candidates, while legislative affairs is geared towards those looking to work on Capitol Hill or as a lobbyist. Strategic public relations prepares students to advise senior political and corporate leaders on their engagements with the public.

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4 Questions about Yellow Ribbon Schools and Military Benefits

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Yellow Ribbon schools offer unmatched benefits to military veterans. In fact, they cover the entire cost of tuition. But while there is a lot to be gained, there is also some confusion about how the program exactly works.

Yellow Ribbon schools offer additional funding to help eligible veteran students pay for the balance that is left after their annual contribution from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been maxed out. To be eligible under the Yellow Ribbon program, students must be utilizing the Post 9/11 GI Bill (at the 100 percent level) and cannot be on active duty. Additionally, the Yellow Ribbon designation is not available to students whose active duty spouses transferred the Post 9/11 GI Bill to them.

We spoke to Vanessa Weber, assistant director of military and veteran education benefits (MVEB) at Azusa Pacific University, to learn more about what participating schools offer veterans and their families.

  1. How are military benefits similar to scholarships?

Weber noted that military benefits are similar to scholarships in that they do not have to be repaid as long as the student completes his or her classes and maintains a steady enrollment status (i.e. does not drop from full-time to part-time partway through a term).

  1. How are they different from scholarships?

Military benefits have a more rigorous approval process than scholarships. “Military benefits are very different than scholarships because they go through various approval channels,” explains Weber. The benefits must be approved by the university’s military benefits office, Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Defense, depending on the benefit type. Additionally, military benefits are earned through selfless service to the country. There is no competition or merit-based system that limits potential beneficiaries of the Yellow Ribbon program.

  1. What makes APU’s military benefits unique?

Azusa Pacific University offers a very generous Yellow Ribbon contribution. “Whereas other schools may offer Yellow Ribbon only to a set number of eligible students, APU provides for every student who qualifies,” says Weber.

APU has noted that it is committed to supporting every veteran and minimizing the sense of competition for financial and personal resources. The university’s benefits are not just limited to veterans; APU facilitates tuition assistance for active duty military members and their spouses.

  1. How does APU support military members and veterans?

In addition to the Military and Veteran Education Benefits office, APU also supports military members and veterans through the Military and Veteran Services (MVS) office. Whereas MVEB is involved solely in the processing of military benefits, MVS provides a number of services and resources—including the Veterans Club and events specifically designed for military-connected students.

Yellow Ribbon schools are committed to helping veterans graduate from college debt-free, regardless of their in-state status or whether the school is public or private. That expands educational opportunities beyond what the GI Bill provides, and it demonstrates a university’s commitment to veterans both inside and outside of the classroom.

Author-John Montesi

Source: Reprinted with permission from Azusa Pacific University