Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Post-9/11 GI Bill and other essential tuition resources for military service members

As part of my job at Peirce, I've counseled a number of current and former military men and women over the years. This has been such a rewarding experience for me, because in many cases, they represent some of the most motivated and disciplined students that pass through our college doors.

From what I've seen, these students usually have two primary concerns that follow their decision to continue their education: time and money.

In a recent post, I talked a bit about how time concerns can be addressed by choosing a school that recognizes military service for college credit. But financial resources are essential for service members and their families in starting or going back to a college or trade school.

The good news is that helpful resources are out there for military service members and their families, both through the Federal government and through resources offered by a college or trade school.


In my mind, the best example of this at the Federal level is the Department of Veteran Affairs “Post 9/11 GI Bill. To quote the VA's Web site directly, the bill provides, “financial support for education and housing to individuals with at least 90 days of aggregate service on or after Sept. 11, 2001, or individuals discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days.” That means, if you've served our country for three months, or were injured serving our country after a month, you can get much needed tuition help for a graduate or undergraduate degree, as well as any vocational or technical training.

The best part is that Federal assistance does not end there! There are many additional resources available -- from Federal Tuition Assistance (FTA) to state programs for the National Guard -- that can help service members AND their families.

Members of the reserves are not left out the equation either. The Reserve Education Assistance Program (REAP) provides educational assistance to members of the reserve who are called to active duty in response to a war or national emergency.

I've also been fortunate enough to work with the families of service men and women looking to access higher education. A great resource for them is the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program (DEA), which provides education and training opportunities to dependents of those veterans who suffered from a permanently disabling injury, or who died while on active duty or as a result of a service-related condition.

Many colleges have their own institutional programs with scholarships available to service members and their families. I'm proud to say Peirce College honors those who protect our country with our own "Protect and Serve Grant," a special tuition-based scholarship designed specifically to fit the busy, mobile lifestyle of military members and their families.

The grant reduces tuition by up to 25 percent, either online or on campus. Both active members and veterans of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Reserves, National Guard, Police or Firefighters, and Corrections are eligible, as well as EMT personnel. And we don't forget about spouses and dependents, who are automatically qualified for the Protect and Serve Grant.

Like I said: time and money. If service members can access the resources to overcome these challenges, it removes the significant obstacles to getting a college education or trade school training. My sincere belief is that any service member should be able to access the benefits of higher education for themselves and their families -- and get credit where credit is due. Anything else falls short of honoring their service and skills as individuals who made so many sacrifices already.