What Kind of Help is there for Veterans Seeking a College Degree?

Each year, thousands of military personnel leave the armed forces to pursue their education and begin new lives, but finding information on college for veterans can be difficult when you don’t know where to begin. Fortunately, there are services designed specifically for veterans to help ease the transition from military to civilian life. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, for example, offers assistance in obtaining health insurance, negotiating disability benefits and granting education funding. If you or a loved one needs support in enrolling in a degree program, then consider the following options.

The G.I. Bill

Established in 1944 for returning service members of World War II, the G.I. Bill grants veterans certain benefits to help them assimilate into civilian life. In addition to low mortgage rates and business loans, the G.I. Bill offers veterans the opportunity to attend school without significant financial investment. The bill covers in-state tuition and fees, but some states have opted to expand their definition of “in-state” in an effort to support veterans who don’t hold residency status. The G.I. Bill was updated after Sept. 11, 2001 and can also be used by dependent spouses and children of veterans. The educational portion of the bill grants a stipend for living expenses as well. Between 2009 and 2010, there was a 42 percent increase in the use of the G.I. Bill for college for veterans, probably owing to the updated benefits.

University Services

Getting funding for school isn’t as much of an issue for many veterans as is transitioning into civilian life. The mental, emotional and physical toll that the military takes on many service members makes it difficult for veterans to fully engage in the college experience. When they enter school, most veterans are older than 24, a fact that makes them “non-traditional students” according to standard guidelines. As older students with more life experience and more diverse backgrounds, veterans can end up dropping out due to lack of support. Universities have been addressing this problem by creating departments and advisement centers specifically designed for veterans. These centers offer counseling, sensitivity training for staff members, academic advisement and other services that help former service members connect with the university and their peers. Establishing better relationships encourages veterans to finish their degree programs.

Additional Legislation

The G.I. Bill doesn’t cover the cost of out-of-state tuition rates or the difference between this amount and in-state rates, and this can prevent some veterans from attending school. As a result, 32 states currently waive in-state residency requirements for veterans. In addition, veterans may be able to apply for the Yellow Ribbon Program if it’s available. Participating schools will cover the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition rates, allowing veterans to make the most of their educational funding. Community outreach programs have also been established in most states to help veterans navigate this complex process.

The Veterans Administration constantly encourages states to enact better legislation to help military personnel ease back into the civilian world. When it comes to education, there’s a wide array of options already to help veterans pay for school, handle the emotional and mental aspects of transition, and stay on track for graduation. If you’re researching college for veterans, then start with the Veterans Administration to learn more about the specific opportunities available in your state or chosen school.