What Service Members Should Know When Choosing a College

Chair, books, soldier uniform and USA flag near light textured wall. Military education concept

Thinking about college? You already have the discipline it takes to pursue higher education. From big universities to small colleges, you have plenty of options and each has something unique to offer. Here’s how to compare your college options and find the right institution for your education goals.

Things to consider about college

Look beyond the beautiful lawns and libraries in all those college brochures. You need to balance the cost and logistics of going to school with what you want to accomplish with your degree. There’s a right fit for you and your priorities.

  • Tuition and costs. While most schools offer tuition assistance to service members, certain institutions can be more affordable, like in-state or public universities. Private schools can sometimes be costly. To reduce the amount of debt you graduate with, research each school’s tuition and financial aid offerings carefully.
  • Courses and programs. Some schools specialize in certain areas of study, such as engineering or nursing. If you have a specific area of focus that you want to pursue, narrow down your choices to schools with those programs. If you’re considering graduate school or a higher professional degree, look into which schools offer those specific fields of study to help you make the next transition to graduate school.
  • Location. Choosing a nearby state school or local private college allows you to stay in your current location and commute from home to class. By enrolling in evening or weekend classes you could continue to work or maintain your status in the services.

How to choose

Once you know what your college goals are, these tools can help you find the right fit for your needs.

  • The College Navigator lets you search through over 7,000 schools. Compare location, tuition, courses and financial aid information for universities and colleges nationwide. You can even save your searches to a spreadsheet to revisit and revise your list.
  • The Department of Defense’s Tuition Assistance program provides information on tuition costs at over 2,600 schools that are eligible to receive military tuition assistance. Compare costs, fees, grants, GI Bill® and other financial aid opportunities.
  • Search the Department of Defense’s Voluntary Education Memorandum of Understanding site to see which schools are participating in the federal tuition assistance program.

There are so many resources for service members to find the right college or university at the right cost, no matter where you live or what you hope to study. Military OneSource is here to help you start the next chapter. Call 800-342-9647 anytime to schedule a specialty consultation with one of our education professionals.

Source: militaryonesource.mil

Applications are now open for the 2019 STEM Research Experience for Veteran Undergraduates (REVU) Program

Yale STEM program

REVU is a 10-week summer research program held at Yale University and designed for Warrior-Scholar Project (WSP) alumni and enlisted U.S. military veterans.

Research opportunities currently include astrophysics, chemistry, ecology & evolutionary biology, geology, nanomaterials, neural circuit development, neural network computation, nuclear & particle astrophysics, optics, and pathology. Select research fellows will work directly with Yale faculty and researchers on a project aligned with their scientific interests.

Fellows will also engage in an active professional development program aimed at developing the skills necessary to become successful STEM researchers both in the REVU program and at their home institutions.

The REVU Program will run from May 29 to July 31, 2019 at Yale University.

Applications are due on January 15, 2019, 11:59 pm EST.

To apply or learn more visit campuspress.yale.edu/revu/

How Can the Yellow Ribbon Program Help You?

Veterans Education

The Yellow Ribbon Program can help you pay for higher out-of-state, private school, or graduate school tuition that the Post-9/11 GI Bill doesn’t cover. Find out if your school is a part of this program.

Can I get this benefit?

You can get this benefit if you meet both of the requirements listed below.

Both of these must be true:

  • You qualify for the maximum benefit rate under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and
  • Your school takes part in the Yellow Ribbon Program and has confirmed your enrollment with us

You may be able to get this benefit if you’re the dependent of a Veteran who qualifies for transfer of entitlement for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Transferring Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits

Find out if you can transfer any of your unused Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to your spouse or dependent children.

Note: The Department of Defense (DoD) decides whether you can transfer benefits to your family.

Can I transfer benefits?

You can transfer benefits if you’re on active duty or in the Selected Reserve and you meet the requirements listed below.

At least one of these must be true:

  • You have completed at least 6 years of service on the date your request is approved and you agree to add 4 more years of service, or
  • You have completed at least 10 years of service on the date your request is approved, can’t commit to add 4 more years of service because of either a policy or statute, but agree to serve for the maximum amount of time allowed.

And this must also be true:

The person getting benefits has enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS).

Who’s covered?

Qualified dependents.

What benefits can my qualified dependents get?

If the DoD approves the Transfer of Entitlement (TOE), your spouse or dependent children can apply for up to 36 months of benefits, and may be able to get money for:

  • Tuition
  • Housing
  • Books and supplies

When can they use the transferred benefits?

These conditions apply to family members using transferred benefits:


  • May use the benefit right away
  • May use the benefit while you’re on active duty or after you’ve separated from service
  • Don’t qualify for the monthly housing allowance while you’re on active duty
  • May use the benefit for up to 15 years after your separation from active duty


  • May start to use the benefit only after you’ve finished at least 10 years of service
  • May use the benefit while you’re on active duty or after you’ve separated from service
  • May not use the benefit until they’ve gotten a high school diploma (or equivalency certificate), or have reached 18 years of age
  • Qualify for the monthly housing allowance even when you’re on active duty
  • Don’t have to use the benefit within 15 years after your separation from active duty, but can’t use the benefit after they’ve turned 26 years old

Your dependents may still qualify even if a child marries or you and your spouse divorce. However, Servicemembers and Veterans can revoke (cancel) or change a TOE at any time. If you want to totally revoke transferred benefits for a dependent and you’re still in the service, please turn in another transfer request for the dependent through milConnect. If a dependent’s transfer eligibility (ability to get a TOE) has been totally revoked, you can’t transfer benefits again to that dependent.

How do I transfer the benefit?

While you’re still on active duty, you’ll request to transfer, change, or revoke a Transfer of Entitlement (TOE) through milConnect.

If the DoD approves the TOE, your family members may apply for benefits.

  • Apply online now, or
  • Apply by mail. Fill out and mail an Application for Family Member to Use Transferred Benefits (VA Form 22-1990E) to the nearest VA regional office.

Once you leave active duty, you can still provide a future effective date for when the TOE can be used, change the number of months transferred, or revoke the TOE by submitting a written request to VA through milConnect.

Get more information

What benefits can I get?

Money for tuition

How do I get this benefit?

  1. Apply for benefits

Apply for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, visit www.vets.gov/education

If you qualify for benefits, you’ll get a Certificate of Eligibility (COE).

  1. Turn in your COE

Bring your COE to your school’s certifying official, or to the financial aid, military liaison, or other office as determined by your school, and ask to apply to your school’s Yellow Ribbon Program.

  1. Wait for a decision

Your school will decide:

—Whether it has already enrolled the maximum number of students for the program period. Enrollment is on a first-come, first-served basis. We have an agreement with each school about on how many students may be covered each year.

—How much the entitlement will be. Your school decides this amount by adding up tuition and mandatory fees, and then subtracting any specific aid you’ve gotten from other sources—such as scholarships or grants, as well as your Post-9/11 GI Bill tuition payment. Your school applies the Yellow Ribbon Program benefit to this final amount.

  1. Follow up

You’ll get a notice from your school about whether it has accepted you into the program and how much money you’ll get for tuition.

Source: vets.gov/education/gi-bill/transfer

Embry-Riddle Graduate Student Motivates Fellow Veterans

Veteran and ERAU alum Amanda Meurer

By Deborah Circelli

Standing in front of fellow veterans, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University graduate student Amanda Meurer gives these first-year students study tips and other skills on being successful.

By her side is Mako, a golden retriever service dog who helps the U.S. Army veteran with anxiety and her diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder. Mako has been with Meurer since this summer through the K9s For Warriors program. He is able to sense when she’s anxious and signals her to pet him which soothes her anxiety. Mako is also trained to help her with mobility.

“In the military when you have a friend with you it is called a battle buddy. Now, I have a battle buddy that just happens to be a dog,” she said.

Meurer, seeking her Master’s degree in Human Security & Resilience with Embry-Riddle’s Worldwide Campus, spent eight months in a military camp in Iraq that faced mortar and rocket attacks. She was a wheeled vehicle mechanic with the 8th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 229th Aviation Regiment nicknamed the “Flying Tigers.” In addition to PTSD, she suffered shoulder and back injuries maintaining ground vehicles and was placed on medical retirement and honorably discharged.

Today, as a peer mentor, she teaches new student veterans UNIV 101, which is everything from how to plan class schedules for their Academic Study Plan to what services are available on campus and in the community.  She received a bachelor’s degree in May in Homeland Security and has also worked at the Veteran Student Services office helping veterans adjust to college life.

“When you are in the veteran community, you are part of a different brother and sisterhood. It’s nice to have people you can be yourself around,” Meurer said. “I want to be able to help student veterans and hopefully they will be able to help someone else one day.”

It took Meurer a couple of months to come out of her shell when she transferred to Embry-Riddle in 2015 from a community college in Kentucky, following a little over five years in the Army. But once she did, she found her place in leadership positions, including helping to reestablish the Student Veterans Organization and serving on organizations, including the Homeland Security Student Association, the Order of the Sword and Shield security studies honor society, Omicron Delta Kappa’s leadership honor society and Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority.

“She can relate to what student veterans are going through in their transition from the military to college life,” said Dawn McGowan, UNIV 101 instructor for the veterans course and former director of Veteran Student Services. “She is a great communicator and motivates students to be successful.”

Meurer ultimately hopes to work for a government law enforcement or intelligence agency as a way of continuing to give back. She’s passionate about wanting to end the opioid crisis, which has impacted her hometown in Kentucky.

“I may not be wearing the uniform, but I’ll be able to serve through the civil sector,” she said.

Photo Credit: Embry-Riddle/Daryl LaBello

Center for Geospatial Information Technology builds database to help Virginia’s veterans

Brandon Herndon

Virginia Tech’s Center for Geospatial Information Technology has been working to improve informational databases across service lines of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services

The work of the center, which is based in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, will help 15,000 veterans access educational, employment, and support resources across Virginia.

The Center for Geospatial Information Technology’s involvement with the effort came at the request of Virginia Tech’s Institute for Policy and Governance, which had supported a database serving the Virginia Veterans and Family Support Program, formerly the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program, for six years.

The institute, affiliated with the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, proposed enhancing and expanding the existing database management system to serve multiple service lines within the Department of Veterans Services and turned to the center to leverage its breadth of programming capacity and expertise. Management of the project transitioned to the center in July 2016.

“The Institute for Policy and Governance laid the foundation for us to build a new database that will be more reactive to the needs of the various service lines of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services,” said Center Operations Officer Brandon Herndon, pictured above, who served as the lead on the project.

The Center for Geospatial Information Technology developed a new database for both the Virginia Veterans and Family Support Program and Veterans Education, Transition, and Employment, a directorate of five organizations that helps veterans access educational and employment opportunities. The center worked to determine the specific needs of each organization and to facilitate communications between veterans and their dependents and schools, businesses, hospitals, and other service providers.

The new system went live in February 2018, with all organizations full transitioned by June 2018.

Herndon’s experience as a 10-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force was an asset throughout the process. “As a veteran, I was able to be an engaged collaborator, recognizing the different needs of each organization. And because I was familiar with the terms and data that these organizations were working with, I could ensure we developed a program that best suited their needs.”

A central challenge to the project was to create a program that would be adaptable to the specific needs of each organization. To meet this goal, the center utilized a third-party software package called Zoho CRM.

“This software is like a box of Legos,” Herndon explained. “It allows us to make rapid implementation of workflows, ideas, and reporting requirements.”

An additional challenge was merging a wide range data from several different sources and databases. Project Associate Javier Ramírez was tasked with creating a process to import thousands of data points into a single system, thus reducing data duplication. Each organization required custom design to meet its needs as well as custom programming to process and import its historical data into the new system.

Owing to the flexibility and interconnectedness of the new database management system, Herndon feels that the implementation will free up time for staff members, allowing them to be more responsive to the veterans they work with.

The work of the center was praised by the Virginia Department of Veterans Services. Commissioner John Newby said, “The client management system built by the Center for Geospatial Information Technology increases our ability to coordinate across Veterans Education, Transition, and Employment, and Virginia Veterans and Family Support programs, enabling more streamlined communications and better tracking so we can consistently improve service delivery.”

Matt Leslie, assistant director of the Virginia Veterans and Family Support Program, echoed this praise. “The user-friendly system has enhanced the ability of our staff to spend more time working directly with clients while tracking progress of connecting clients to the best services available. The system provides us with more tools to drill down and assess the quality of the services we provide.”

As the center’s role transitions from development to maintenance under a new contract with the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, Herndon is looking forward to expanding the center’s contributions to Virginia veterans.

“Since we’re a geospatial office, we’re hoping that the next step will be to use the data to create additional, public-facing tools that veterans can use. For example, if veterans are looking for educational opportunities, we can use geospatial data points to help them find colleges, trade schools, or certificate programs nearby that are eligible to receive GI Bill funding.”

Peter Sforza, director of the Center for Geospatial Information Technology, added: “Our applied research focus is to develop information infrastructure and analytics to deliver data-driven results by incorporating the best available science and technical approaches for any particular problem. We’re excited to help build a solid foundation of information and technology that further enables the Virginia Department of Veterans Services to better connect the veterans and families they serve to the wealth of resources available to them.”

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ETSU holds dedication ceremony for new Military-Affiliated Student Resource Center


JOHNSON CITY – A newly named, renovated and relocated space for military-affiliated students at East Tennessee State University is officially open. A dedication ceremony held Wednesday by the Office of Veterans Affairs introduced the community to the new Military-Affiliated Student Resource Center (MARC).

Located on the ground floor of Yoakley Hall and formerly known as the Veterans Lounge since its opening in 2013, the renovated MARC is more than three times larger and serves close to 700 military-affiliated students.

“The new title more adequately represents what it is. The MARC is a sign of ETSU’s commitment to our military-affiliated population,” said Dr. Bert Bach, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

The MARC features separate study and social spaces where students can connect through academics and shared experiences, as many have lived across the country and the globe. It has a computer lab, study/conference room, kitchen, charging station for devices and space for working service animals to rest alongside their military-affiliated owners.

Enrollment of military-affiliated students who served in the military or are members of military service families has increased 28 percent in the last two years. The Office of Veterans Affairs is over halfway to its goal to have 1,000 military-affiliated students by 2026.

“This space is a sign of continuing growth and the recognition of that growth,” noted Col. (Ret.) Tony Banchs, director of the Office of Veterans Affairs. “We continue to recruit students from surrounding military bases and throughout the region.”

Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder from the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs congratulated ETSU for its outreach efforts beyond recruitment, adding, “We know that enrolling in college is not enough. We want to make sure they succeed all the way through to graduation so they can go on and continue to serve our country, our state and our communities in new and different ways.”

To learn more about benefits available at ETSU for veteran and military-affiliated students, visit etsu.edu/academicaffairs/veteransaffairs or contact the Office of Veterans Affairs at 423-439-6819.

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ETSU receives Veteran Reconnect Grant from Tennessee Higher Education Commission


East Tennessee State University will again receive funding and program support through the Veteran Reconnect Grant to assist veterans and service members in their pursuit of college degrees.

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) announced $889,277 in funding for 14 colleges and universities in the state, including $25,000 for ETSU. The university received an award of $80,000 in 2017. Veteran Reconnect is part of Governor Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative to increase educational attainment in the state to 55 percent by the year 2025.

The 2018 Veteran Reconnect grants are focused on improving the assessment of prior learning for veterans returning to college. Prior learning assessment (PLA) examines a veteran’s prior military training and grants equivalent college credit for skills attained during service. This results in a student veteran completing their degree program in an accelerated timeframe.

“This grant will allow ETSU to expand its ability to offer credit for equivalent military training,” said Col. (Ret.) Tony Banchs, director of Veterans Affairs at ETSU. “I am so pleased that THEC has recognized ETSU’s efforts at identifying prior learning assessments for our veteran students.”

The previous Veteran Reconnect Grant of $80,000 allowed ETSU’s Office of Veteran Affairs to hire a military credentials coordinator to conduct prior learning assessments. Trevor Harvey, who holds that position, says efforts are underway to make ETSU the destination of choice for current and potential veteran students.

“Through initiatives such as our Veterans Path to Education (VPE) site, military training and ETSU course equivalency reviews, we are well on our way to reaching our goal to be the leader in this effort,” Harvey added.

Veteran Reconnect aligns with legislation passed last year by the Tennessee General Assembly that directs THEC to develop an online web platform to assist veterans in translating their military experience to academic credit. As part of that effort, institutions receiving grants will map out opportunities already available to students through their campuses.

“Earning college credit for military training can be the difference between a student applying to a school, or moving on to the next opportunity,” said THEC Executive Director Mike Krause. “When a veteran is able to use credit for their military training towards their college degree, they are more likely to persist and finish their program of study.”

November is National Scholarship Month NOW is the time to start applying for scholarships


SALT LAKE CITY–TFS Scholarships is the most comprehensive free online resource for higher education funding connecting students to more than 7 million scholarships representing more than $41 billion in aid.

It was founded in 1987 after Richard Sorensen’s father, an inner-city high school principal, bemoaned the lack of good scholarship resources for his students.

High school seniors now applying for college should also be applying for scholarships, according to Richard Sorensen, an expert with more than 30 years experience helping students find scholarships.

“College bound students should spend four to five hours a week looking for scholarships, starting in the fall of their senior year,” says Sorensen, President of TFS Scholarships. “They should think about finding scholarships like it’s a part time job.”

A scholarship, unlike a student loan, is free money and should always be the first place students look for help in funding their college education. The majority of the scholarship opportunities featured on the TFS Scholarships website come directly from colleges and universities, rather than solely from competitive national pools, thereby increasing the chances of finding scholarships.

“There are new scholarships posted on the site every month, each with different deadlines and time frames,” says Sorensen. “There is plenty of aid out there and a lot of it goes untouched. If a student is diligent, they’ll find it.”

TFS Scholarships also posts a new scholarship opportunity every day on its Twitter, Facebook and Instagram social media accounts (@TFSscholarships), making it easy to find new scholarship opportunities. “We call it ‘The Scholarship of the Day,’” says Sorensen. “Most of the scholarships are available for all students so if a student or their parents follow us, they will have the opportunity to apply for more than 300 scholarships every year from this source alone.”

TFS takes it a step further, digging deeper into localized scholarships. “If you wanted to go to Arizona State, for example, we have scholarships specific to that school,” says Sorensen.

Each month TFS adds more than 5,000 new scholarships to its database in an effort to stay current with national scholarship growth rates – maximizing the number of opportunities students have to earn funding for their education.

Once students have their scholarships in hand, how they manage them can have important implications. It is up to the student to inform the school of the scholarship.

“The truth is, the money is going to be sent to the school in most cases,” says Sorensen. “If the money is going to tuition and books, it’s tax free. But it is taxable if they use it for living expenses. And if students get more money in scholarships than their direct expenses, they get the difference back from the school,” says Sorensen.

The TFS website also provides financial aid information, resources about federal and private student loan programs, and a Career Aptitude Quiz that helps students identify the degrees and professions that best fit their skills.

Thanks to the financial support of Wells Fargo, TFS has remained a free, online service that effectively connects students with college funding resources to fuel their academic future. “Students trust us with a lot of their personal information and we respect that,” says Sorensen. “With TFS, they never have to be worried about being bombarded by spam.”

For more information about Tuition Funding Sources visit tuitionfundingsources.com.

About TFS Scholarships

TFS Scholarships (TFS) is an independent service that provides free access to scholarship opportunities for aspiring and current undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Founded in 1987, TFS began as a passion project to help students and has grown into the most comprehensive online resource for higher education funding. Today, TFS is a trusted place where students and families enjoy free access to more than 7 million scholarships representing more than $41 billion in college funding. In addition to its vast database that’s refreshed with 5,000 new scholarships every month, TFS also offers information about career planning, financial aid, and federal and private student loan programs as part of its commitment to helping students fund their future. Learn more at tuitionfundingsources.com.


Endowed Scholarship Created in Late Student Veteran’s Honor


For six years, the late Joshua Piccoli was a cornerstone in the Office of Military and Veterans Affairs at Rutgers University–Camden, where he was a constant source of guidance and support for his fellow student veterans making the tough transition from active military to civilian life.

More than just a friendly and familiar face, Piccoli, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, was universally recognized by student veterans across campus as the veritable personification of loyalty, integrity, and hard work that they could all emulate.

Piccoli died unexpectedly in 2016, but his legacy will now live on with the creation of an endowed scholarship in his name.

The annual Joshua Piccoli Scholarship will be open to all student veterans enrolled at Rutgers–Camden who are participating in the student veterans group or one of the numerous programs affiliated with the Rutgers–Camden Office of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Fred Davis, director of the office, recalls that, upon Piccoli’s passing, there was an outpouring of emotion and support from all who knew him and it was only fitting to establish a scholarship to help veterans, which is what Josh loved doing and did so well.

Davis notes that while the inaugural recipients have yet to be selected, he knows just the kind of character, integrity, and participation that he’d like to see.

“I hope that these individuals mirror many of the attributes that Josh displayed each day of his life,” he says. “In Josh’s memory, we hope to award this scholarship to a caring humanitarian who gives the extra effort to assist those in need, especially veterans.”

Piccoli -Iraq and Afghanistan
Piccoli served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan

Piccoli’s “loving and helpful” nature was even evident in his youth, recalls his mother, Carol Buckman, remembering how her son was the primary caregiver for her elderly mother, who lived with them for a time as she battled dementia.

“I guess that nurturing nature – that gentleness – is something that is inborn,” she says.

Buckman fondly remembers her middle child – between Josh’s older brother, Jason, and younger sister, Jessica Deturo – as an “easygoing kid” who was content with taking hand-me downs and always accepting of the ways things were.

“You couldn’t buy anything new for Josh,” says Buckman, recalling one Christmas when Jason wanted a new bike. “Josh said, ‘I’ll take Jason’s old bike. I think it’s cool!’”

Buckman surmises that Josh’s cooperative nature and penchant for looking out for others was brought out even more by serving in the U.S. Marine Corps and later in his role at Rutgers–Camden.

After graduating from Eastern High School in Voorhees in 1997, Piccoli had taken classes at Camden County College before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps and joining the 3rd battalion, 7th Marines, a premier infantry combat unit.

His unit was deployed to Kuwait in January 2003 and, shortly thereafter, participated in the Battle of Baghdad. Once the city was secure, the unit was moved southwest to Karbala, where they were tasked with maintaining security and stabilization in the city.

When his tour ended in September 2003, Piccoli returned to the United States and served as a physical training instructor at Officers Candidate School in Quantico, Va. He later added a second deployment in Afghanistan.

“The courage Josh exhibited demonstrates valor as an ideal that should endure in life, and the sacrifice above self is something all Americans should strive for,” says Davis. “Josh had the moral courage to do whatever tasks are at hand and need to be accomplished.”

Honorably discharged in April 2006, Piccoli returned to South Jersey and worked in several marketing jobs in the area before taking advantage of his education benefits and enrolling at Rutgers–Camden in January 2011. He promptly became the first work-study in the Veterans Affairs office, a position that he continued to hold after graduating and was attending his second year of Rutgers Law School.

“Josh excelled in that environment, where there was a genuine warmth and willingness to help,” recalls Buckman.

In his role, Piccoli regularly helped fellow veterans navigate the application process and ensured that they were in compliance with V.A. requirements. If need be, he was more than willing to go out of his way to advocate on their behalf when communicating with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

For Piccoli, it was a testament to the perpetual and unwritten bond that veterans on campus share.

Fred Davis with Piccoli
Fred Davis with Piccoli

“It’s like the camaraderie that you have in the military, but on a college campus,” said Piccoli, then secretary of the student veterans group at Rutgers–Camden, in a 2014 interview. “The veterans group is amazing; it’s great to have friends who you can feel comfortable with and who will be there if you need it. That goes a long way.”

Among the many student veterans whom Piccoli assisted were Tina Mikes and Mark Bodrog, who both remembered their late friend as the first person to show them around campus and came to admire his dedicated service and commitment.

As Mikes recalls, even though Piccoli worked in the Veterans Affairs office in a work-study capacity, he did so as though it was a fulltime job and became the face of the Rutgers–Camden student veterans community.

“Josh was always loyal to his fellow veterans and did what he could to assist them in any way he knew how,” says Mikes, a 2013 graduate of Rutgers–Camden and a 2016 graduate of Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “He never took shortcuts or the easy way out of things because he was led by a strong moral compass.”

Bodrog echoed the sentiment, saying that Piccoli embraced the “esprit de corps” that many student veterans miss most when they leave active service and was the link that helped to keep the student veterans group at Rutgers–Camden engaged.

“Joshua had a unique way of motivating his fellow veterans in shared camaraderie,” recalls Bodrog, a 2007 graduate of Rutgers–Camden. “He constantly pushed himself to achieve more and, by extension, he pushed his fellow veterans to achieve more and work hard for a great education and opportunities to better themselves. If the bond of the student veterans at Rutgers–Camden had an image, Joshua would be the face and the model veteran.”

The two expressed their pride that Piccoli’s memory will now be handed down through generations of student veterans at Rutgers–Camden.

“While veterans will have never known or met Joshua, his scholarship will be a testament to his personal legacy and sacrifice to ensure the success of the educational mission of student veterans,” says Bodrog.

For Buckman, she hopes that students entering Rutgers–Camden now and in the future – those whom never had the opportunity to meet her son – will find out what type of person he was and try to follow in his footsteps.

“I hope that they hear or read about him and realize how he was always there to help people,” she says, “and emulate some of the things that he did.”

Tom McLaughlin
Rutgers-Camden University

How to Use the Military Tuition Assistance Program

veteran student

If you’ve thought about going to college, but didn’t know if you could afford it, then the Military Tuition Assistance program may be just the benefit you need. The program is available to active duty, National Guard and Reserve Component service members. While the decision to pursue a degree may be a difficult one personally, TA can lessen your financial concerns considerably, since it now pays up to 100 percent of tuition expenses for semester hours costing $250 or less.

Courses and degree programs may be academic or technical and can be taken from two- or four-year institutions on-installation, off-installation or by distance learning. An accrediting body recognized by the Department of Education must accredit the institution. Your service branch pays your tuition directly to the school. Service members need to first check with an education counselor for the specifics involving TA by visiting their local installation education office or by going online to a virtual education center. Tuition assistance may be used for the following programs:

  • Vocational/technical programs
  • Undergraduate programs
  • Graduate programs
  • Independent study
  • Distance-learning programs


All four service branches and the U.S. Coast Guard offer financial assistance for voluntary, off-duty education programs in support of service members’ personal and professional goals. The program is open to officers, warrant officers and enlisted active duty service personnel. In addition, members of the National Guard and Reserve Components may be eligible for TA based on their service eligibility. To be eligible for TA, an enlisted service member must have enough time remaining in service to complete the course for which he or she has applied. After the completion of a course, an officer using TA must fulfill a service obligation that runs parallel with – not in addition to – any existing service obligation.

Coverage Amounts and Monetary Limits

The Tuition Assistance Program will fund up to 100 percent of your college tuition and certain fees with the following limits:

  • Not to exceed $250 per semester credit hour or $166 per quarter credit hour
  • Not to exceed $4,500 per fiscal year, October 1 through September 30

Tuition Assistance Versus the VA Education Benefits

While the TA program is offered by the services, the Department of Veterans Affairs administers a variety of education benefit programs. Some of the VA programs, such as the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2008, also known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill®, can work well with the TA program, as it can supplement fees not covered by TA. In addition, the Post-9/11 GI Bill® funds are available to you for up to 15 years after you leave the military. The TA program is a benefit that is available only while you’re in the service.

Tuition Assistance Benefits and Restrictions

Tuition assistance will cover the following expenses:

  • Tuition
  • Course-specific fees such as laboratory fee or online course fee

Note: All fees must directly relate to the specific course enrollment of the service member.

Tuition assistance will not cover the following expenses:

  • Books and course materials
  • Flight training fees
  • Taking the same course twice
  • Continuing education units, or CEUs

Keep in mind that TA will not fund your college courses, and you will have to reimburse any funds already paid if any of the following situations occur:

  • Leaving the service before the course ends
  • Quitting the course for reasons other than personal illness, military transfer or mission requirements
  • Failing the course

Application Process

Each military branch has its own TA application form and procedures. To find out how to get started, visit your local installation education center. Prior to your course enrollment, you may be required to develop an education plan or complete TA orientation. Be sure to keep the following important information in mind when you apply:

  • Military tuition assistance may only be used to pursue degree programs at colleges and universities in the United States that are regionally or nationally accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the U.S Department of Education. A quick way to check the accreditation of a school is by visiting the Department of Education.
  • Your service’s education center must approve your military tuition assistance before you enroll in a course.

Top-up Program

The Top-up program allows funds from the Montgomery GI Bill®-Active Duty or the Post-9/11 GI Bill to be used for tuition and fees for high-cost courses that are not fully covered by TA funds.

  • Eligibility. To use Top-up, your service branch must approve you for TA. You also must be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill® or the Montgomery GI Bill®-Active Duty.
  • Application. First apply for TA in accordance with procedures of your service branch. After you have applied for TA, you will need to complete VA Form 22-1990 to apply for Department of Veterans Affairs education benefits. The form is available online from the VA. Make sure you specify “Top-up” on the application and mail it one of the education processing offices listed on the form.

Other supplemental funding possibilities

Aside from using the MGIB-AD or Post-9/11 GI Bill for items such as tuition and fees not covered by TA, there are other funding opportunities available to service members including the following:

  • Federal and state financial aid. The federal government provides $150 billion per year in grants, work-study programs and federal loans to college students. The aid comes in several forms, including need-based programs such as Pell grants, subsidized Stafford Loans, Supplemental Educational Opportunity grants and federal work/study programs. You can also get low-interest loans through the federal government. Visit Federal Student Aid to find out more or complete an online application for FAFSA at no cost to you.

Source: militaryonesource.mil

The Troops to Teachers Program

little girl raising hand in classroom

You know that scientists discovered Pluto in 1930. You know that it’s no longer the ninth planet and it is now considered a dwarf planet. You have so much knowledge; why not share it with kids who need it?

The skills you honed in the military—leadership, initiative, discipline, integrity and the ability to thrive in an ever changing environment—are a natural fit for the classroom.

Troops to Teachers, a military career transition program, helps transitioning service members begin new careers as public school teachers. It’s never too early to think about your life after separation and start exploring your options. Your next life-changing mission could be to become a teacher. Many service members transitioning to a civilian career find their skills naturally transfer to a career in teaching.

Troops to Teachers can help you identify your best path to teaching by providing counseling, guidance and help with meeting education requirements. You’re eligible for the program if you’re a member of the U.S. Armed Forces or were honorably discharged. Troops to Teachers career resources include:

Counseling and referral assistance. This service provides guidance on teacher certification and education requirements and leads on employment opportunities.

Financial assistance. The program’s financial help can pay for your education and licensure requirements. There are also bonuses to encourage you to teach in certain types of schools or in a specific part of the country, and also for teaching subjects that are in demand, such as science, math or foreign languages. Time restrictions for registration and other requirements are involved, so contact a Troops to Teachers state or regional coordinator for more information.

Registration. Contact your installation education office for more information on registering for Troops to Teachers, or visit the Troops to Teachers website.

Source: militaryonesource.mil