Education is the greatest weapon that one can possess. It lets you gain new skills and prepares you for a possible career in your chosen field. Education can pave a path for your future and help you achieve your goals in life.
But for veterans, trading camouflage uniforms and combat boots for college books and sneakers can be daunting, especially when you’re swamped with various responsibilities such as raising a family or a full-time job. Finances can also become an issue for those seeking to further their education, making gaining a diploma all the more elusive.
Colleges and universities can aptly address these concerns by adopting distinct programs and services that can accommodate the unique circumstances of non-traditional students coming from military service. These mechanisms help them gain new skills and acquire the necessary credentials to help them successfully navigate their way through college and help them attain their goal of obtaining a degree.
GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon Schools
The GI Bill—most notably its recent version, the Post 9/11 GI Bill—awards military personnel and veterans with the opportunity to achieve higher education by providing benefits to pay for college, graduate school, and training programs. The bill entitles eligible members of the military to 36 months of schooling in which all expenses are paid for. On top of this, partner colleges and universities under the Yellow Ribbon Program cover up to 50% of expenses incurred on top of that GI bill coverage, giving military students additional financial support to fund their schooling.
The benefits rolled out by the Post 9/11 GI Bill can be applied to colleges and universities across the United States. Aside from this, colleges and universities can also offer additional services that are tailor-fit for veterans, making these schools certified military-friendly.
Military-friendly schools are colleges and universities enlisted in the Yellow Ribbon Program that cater to veterans and uniformed personnel who desire to enter college and finish a degree. Institutions of Higher Learning (IHLs) are considered military-friendly when they observe best practices that ensure academic flexibility, financial assistance availability, and specialized support. These programs are customized to accelerate courses and learning, ensure ample financial provisions from enrollment towards graduation, and provide extended services to care for their mental health, job, and life skills, as well as aid them for future employment.
Dedicated Military and Veterans Admissions Program Page
Colleges and universities can accommodate those who served in the military with a Military and Veterans Admissions Page. A dedicated site can address inquiries regarding admission and course offerings as well as available military and veteran support services. In order to make it more efficient, campuses may even offer a self-guided campus tour to help the military student become familiar with college facilities. This also allow potential students to preview online courses before enrolling or explore options for associate, bachelor, or post-graduate studies.
Accommodating Military Students
Colleges and universities recognize that military students face different circumstances compared to traditional students and must be prepared to address their needs by having the following programs and services:
These can surely attract veterans and their family members to enroll and take advantage of a college’s course and other offerings.
Military students are eager to return to school as part of their transition into civilian life. But, unlike other students, they may already have several responsibilities that may not fit into the regular academic schedule. Colleges can address this by adapting a flexible academic schedule in which classes are held on a nightly or weekly basis. Academic schedules can also work on shortening classes into four-week formats where monthly schedules hasten the educational timeline to ensure that benefits from the GI Bill are maximized.
Universities can also convert military experience and training into academic credit. This way, years of military training remain relevant and course offerings can align with a military background and reflect current market demands. Colleges and universities use the ACE Credit for Military Experience to earn credit for college-level learning gained during active duty. Other assessment tools include the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) and the DANTES Subject Standardized Test. Obtaining credit for military experience lessens the courses required to obtain a degree and it can also benefit veterans by lowering education costs.
Flexible Learning Options
Community colleges can offer short-term certificate programs to military students so they can gain employment faster. On the other hand, larger colleges and universities can encourage veterans and military students to pursue courses related to technology, cybersecurity, and business as these courses can bank on previous military experience and are currently in high demand.
IHLs can also employ flexible learning options to accommodate veterans and their unique circumstances. Some may be stationed in overseas assignments or may need to relocate for another assignment, so classes and course offerings need to be considerate of such circumstances. Technology can be beneficial in such setups as it ensures quality education that is accessible 24/7.
Colleges and universities can use also implement self-paced programs or a hybrid model that combines both in-campus and online learning. This option works best for veterans who juggle with family and other responsibilities. Interactive discussions and online classes serve to enhance classroom settings for military students.
Giving military students flexible academic schedules, hybrid classroom set-ups, and bearable workloads can help veteran students take on the rigors of civilian life while pursing higher education. Converting military experience to academic credits and accelerating academic paths ensure that the courses that they take are relevant and reflect current market demands.
Financial Assistance Programs
While the Post 9/11 GI Bill covers most of the expenses for college, veterans may still need to shell out some of their own money to pay for books, housing, and other expenses. These costs can be quite burdensome to students who have families or are short on funds. As such, other sources of financial assistance need to be explored.
Colleges and universities under the Yellow Ribbon Program can cover a maximum of 50% in excess of the manual cap provided by the GI Bill. If this is still inadequate, schools can offer additional aid in the form of special military tuition programs, scholarships, loans, and grants.
Military Tuition Assistance is an allotment made by Congress to eligible members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard that is paid directly to the college or university where the uniformed personnel is enrolled. The assistance pays up to 100% of the tuition for qualified personnel.
Scholarships require certain criteria to be met and are usually accorded to veterans and their family members. Scholarships are also offered to military students who pursue a specific degree or that are sponsored by a future employer. These types of scholarships can be recognized by the school apart from GI Bill benefits.
Veterans Resource Center
College does not only offer technical knowledge—it must also cater to the mental and psychological well-being of its students. A Veterans Resource Center serves as a support group for veterans that enter college by:
Campus SVA Chapter
Aside from ensuring the mental and social readiness of veterans in college, giving them a voice in the student administration can also aid colleges as they enhance their policies. It is best that colleges and universities allow the formation of student-veteran groups and extend support to activities organized by the said groups.
Student Veterans of America (SVA) assists student veterans as they transition into college and civilian life. SVA can exist as a chapter at the university level—on an international scale, it acts as a coalition of support chapters in campuses in the U.S. and around the world. SVA chapters host events on campus and are duly recognized by the college as a representative of student veteran interests.
On-Campus Respect for Military
A flexible academic schedule and extensive veteran support services can make a college an ideal venue for education. Added to these qualities is the campus’ acceptance of veterans as part of the student population and the support they receive from faculty and other students.
IHLs can acknowledge the immense contributions of veterans and show understanding of their eagerness for learning by hosting an admissions event or a customized student orientation specific for students with military experience.
Providing facilities for student veterans is also a plus, which can include dedicated study spaces or lounges. Housing assistance is also beneficial for veterans. As an added bonus, some colleges even designate free parking lanes for student veterans to show appreciation for their time served in the military.
It is also helpful to have faculty trained in dealing with PTSD and other mental illnesses so that they can competently handle these issues. Colleges and universities may also organize awareness campaigns and inclusion activities to successfully integrate veterans into the college community.
Perhaps the best gauge of a military-friendly environment is the level of empathy and support veteran students get from the civilian students as their efforts in serving the country and pursuing higher education are recognized and validated.
Extended Support for Family Members
Colleges also recognize that student veterans often have spouses and children to take care of and have begun to offer on-campus childcare services. Schools can also partner with other organizations to connect student veterans and their families with regards to practical parenting, family and relationship advice, and even assist veterans who require companion or support animals. These efforts are aligned with a school’s commitment to being military-friendly as it not only caters to the technical aspect of learning but also recognizes student veterans’ needs to balance time between study, work, and family obligations.
It is also important to add that colleges and universities extend educational opportunities to military dependents and family members. Spouses and children, as well as dependents of retired or deceased veterans, can obtain similar benefits that allow them to pursue licenses or obtain credential for future employment. Schools can uphold the provisions of the GI Bill for military family members and dependents and give them the same privileges of veterans.
College is the first step that many veterans take as they transition from military to civilian life. They do so in the hopes of gaining knowledge and skills that can boost their ability to find a job related to their military background and, if not, establish them into a new career path.
Colleges dubbed as ‘military-friendly’ have a set of established programs and services that acknowledge the non-traditional nature of student veterans who have families and other obligations to attend to while completing a degree. Higher education institutions work hand-in-hand with the government to further education for veterans and do so by providing flexible learning options ranging from obtaining academic credit for military experience to accelerating course deliveries through online, on-campus, and hybrid class models.
Universities also offer various support services to address mental health, financial assistance and veteran-related concerns such as schoolwork assistance, job skills, and links for future employment. Added to this is a pool of knowledgeable faculty and staff as well as an all-out atmosphere of respect for student veterans and even their families and beneficiaries. All these methods are employed by colleges and universities to accommodate those who have served in the military.