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Before You Enroll: Smart Questions Military Vets Should Ask Before Choosing a College

Whether you’re active duty or a veteran, going back to school is an excellent opportunity for you to start a new career or advance your skills. Finding the right school, however, isn’t always a simple process.

Before you enroll, you need to become a smart college consumer. That is, you need to learn as much as you can about the schools available, the academic program options, and why some may be better than others for your particular needs.

These Are the Smart Questions You Need to Ask

With hundreds of colleges and universities available to veterans, individuals need to sort through the options to find the one program that is going to give them the best ability to thrive after graduation. Sit down for a formal interview and consultation with a school admissions counselor to get insight into any programs which interest you. Ask these questions before you enroll.

What is Your Tuition and Fees Structure?

Start where it matters most – with costs. It’s important to understand all fees involved in this type of education. That includes the per-credit cost. Most military veterans will have access to a military tuition assistance program. If you qualify, you may have most of your tuition covered, but that may not include your actual fees – which can include books, enrollment fees, application fees, and more. Ask about scholarship options, too.

Is the Program Accredited?

Most career paths require attending an accredited school. That means that any professional association in the field you plan to study is recognized by the school’s educational program as one that’s high quality and effective. More so, if you plan to tap into financial aid for your education, such as through the GI Bill, you need to choose an accredited school. Don’t assume all large universities fall into this category.

Is the School a Part of the Servicemembers Opportunities Colleges?

Along the same lines, you need to choose a school, if possible, that is partnered with the Servicemembers Opportunities Colleges or SOC. This association of more than 1,900 colleges and universities provides advocacy, support, and career and technical education options to you as a vet.

What Are Curriculum Options in Your Field of Interest?

Next, consider the curriculum options. Like any college student, you need to be sure the program offered is the best possible option for your career goals. Take the time to look for innovative new programs, those with advanced levels of educational options, and those that offer continuing education into Master and Ph.D. levels. These curriculum programs are often some of the most advanced.

What is the projected program completion time?

A two-year program may sound good, but does it really offer you the tools and resources you need to remain competitive in the industry? Take a closer look at what the program will teach you and how well it will prepare you for the future goals you have. That’s critical – you need to have the edge when you graduate.

What Happens After Graduation?

The next step is to focus specifically on what happens after you graduate. Does the program connect you with positions and employers in the field you’re most interested in? Will there be Career Services resources available to you?

Take the time to consider each school program and opportunity individually. The information and resources you obtain from these types of one-on-one meetings will help you tremendously as you plan your future. A quality educational program is always well worth the investment, especially if it helps you achieve your long-term goals.

5 Potential Career Paths for Veterans

Upon leaving the military, many veterans report feelings of aimlessness or frustration as they determine the best next steps for their career. Thankfully, veterans can harness their impressive resumes and range of experiences to gain highly rewarding positions in a broad range of environments.

Whether you favor working in criminal justice or health and human services, you hold great potential. Don’t be afraid to highlight your military experience as you pursue one of these excellent career paths:

Emergency Management

Few people are better suited to emergency management than veterans, who often possess extensive experience in emergency or combat situations. Emergency management directors prepare and execute procedures for a variety of catastrophes, from natural disasters to terrorist incidents. They regularly review emergency plans and revise if necessary. Many are responsible for the financial elements of emergency relief, applying for federal funding and reporting on allocated funds.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), emergency management directors earn an average of $70,500 per year, although extensive education and experience are required to secure work in this competitive field.

Criminal Justice

Many military officials eventually transition into law enforcement. They become police officers, probation officers, detectives, and security guards. Salary and job outlook varies significantly based on the law enforcement path veterans choose. Those who pursue work in probation earn a median annual salary of $50,160, while police officers earn a median $61,600 per year. Detectives and investigators earn the most, with the BLS reporting annual median pay of $78,120 as of May 2016.

Nursing

Nursing may be an excellent fit for those who feel they’ve lost their purpose upon returning home from combat. Eager to serve, veterans enjoy the varied workdays of nurses, who, rather than working conventional 9-to-5 hours, work longer, but less frequent shifts. Most spend ample time on their feet, with no two shifts ever exactly alike. Earning potential is excellent, with the BLS reporting a median salary of $68,450 for registered nurses and far more for nurse practitioners.

Information Systems

Information systems is an excellent option for anybody who obtained IT training during their military tenure. Salaries can be exceedingly high for those with their bachelor’s degree, especially if they boast military experience. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an annual median salary of $135,800 in 2016, plus an impressive job growth rate of 15 percent (average growth rate is 7% for all occupations). These highly-paid employees analyze existing technology infrastructure, recommend improvements, promote network security initiatives, and negotiate directly with vendors.

Finance

Veterans often possess extensive leadership experience, along with clear attention to detail, honed through years of training and immersion in high-stakes situations. Their skills are highly appreciated in the fast-paced world of finance, where they, in turn, appreciate being challenged on a continual basis. Many use their unique experience to pursue careers in international finance, although others are satisfied to serve the local community as financial planners or analysts.

The BLS highlights annual median earnings of $81,760 for financial analysts and $90,530 per year for personal financial advisors. Both career paths enjoy exceptional growth rates, with personal financial advising boasting a 30 percent job outlook between 2014 and 2024.

Veterans boast extensive training and experience in a variety of environments and fields. Their natural desire to serve makes them well-suited for a diverse range of professions. Although many succeed in law enforcement and emergency management, others enjoy a smooth transition into nursing or information systems. No matter your preferred career path, you’re bound to make your mark as a post-military professional.

How do Veterans Pay for College?

Military members make huge sacrifices for the sake of their country. In the United States, current military members and veterans are offered a series of lifetime benefits aimed at compensating them for their time served, including academic benefits designed to help them achieve success following discharge. Keep reading to learn more about the GI Bill and how it can help you reach your academic and career goals.

What types of GI programs are available?

The GI Bill is not a single program, but rather, a series of programs designed to meet the specific needs of different types of students. The following are a few of the most popular programs:

Post-9/11 GI Bill

Military members who have served at least 90 days following Sept. 10, 2001 — and are either still serving or were honorably discharged — are eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which pays a significant portion of tuition fees, along with a housing allowance and a stipend for books and supplies.

MGIB-AD

The Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty program is available to those who have served at least two years on active duty. The program offers tuition coverage for up to eight semesters of traditional education.

MGIB-SR

The Montgomery GI Bill’s Selective Reserve program is similar to MGIB-AD, but designed for certain members of the Selective Reserve. This program only covers up to 36 months of education, with eligibility ending upon departure from the Selective Reserve.

REAP

The Reserve Educational Assistance Program ended with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016. However, REAP benefits may remain available for some individuals until November 25, 2019.

Are GI benefits tax deductible?

GI benefits do not have to be reported as taxable income. However, students who use the GI Bill, the Pell Grant, or other tax-free funds to pay for their schooling cannot deduct the portion paid for by these funding sources. If, after using the GI Bill, students still have tuition left to pay, that portion of the tuition can be deducted.

How long am I eligible to receive the GI Bill?

Length of eligibility for the GI Bill depends somewhat on the program utilized. The eligibility period for Post-9/11 benefits is the longest, with students required to use benefits within fifteen years of separating from service. For the Montgomery GI Bill, benefits must be used within ten years.

Can I use the GI Bill for online classes?

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs states that the GI Bill can be used to fund independent and distance learning, including online classes. Some students who study exclusively online are eligible for a housing allowance.

Read the resources below to learn more about educational benefits like the GI Bill for military members.

http://www.military.com/education/gi-bill/guidance-for-choosing-between-gi-bill-programs.html

http://www.military.com/education/gi-bill/new-post-911-gi-bill-overview.html

https://www.vets.gov/education/gi-bill/montgomery-active-duty/

http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/mgib_sr.asp

Yellow Ribbon Program

The Post-9/11 GI Bill was designed to help veterans and qualified dependents pay for schooling or job training. The bill provides education benefits for those who have served on active duty for 90 or more days after Sept. 10, 2001.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill has several components including:

  • Up to 100 percent tuition and fee coverage for in-state schools up to the current maximum national average of $22,805.34 per year
  • Up to $1,000 a year for books and supplies
  • Monthly housing allowance based on the cost of living where the school is located
  • The option to transfer the GI Bill to a spouse or child
  • Up to 36 months of education benefits, in most cases payable for 15 years after release from active duty
  • The Yellow Ribbon Program

More about the Yellow Ribbon Program

Veterans can use the Post-9/11 GI Bill to cover several different types of education programs including college degree programs. A veteran or dependent qualifies for the Yellow Ribbon benefits by meeting the following requirements:

  • Served an aggregate period of active duty after September 10, 2001, of at least 36 months
  • Was honorably discharged from active duty for a service connected disability and they served 30 continuous days after September 10, 2001
  • Is a dependent eligible for Transfer of Entitlement under the Post-9/11 GI Bill based on a veteran’s service under the eligibility criteria listed above

Because the Post-911 GI Bill covers the cost of in-state public schools up to the annual maximum national average ($22,805.34 in 2017), the Yellow Ribbon Program provides a way for service-members to afford the higher costs associated with undergraduate and advanced degree programs at private or out-of-state schools.

Yellow Ribbon participating schools enter into a voluntary agreement with the Veterans Administration (VA) to waive a portion of, or all of, the tuition costs in excess of the national maximum Post-9/11 GI Bill reimbursement. The VA matches the amount of the waiver and contributes that amount to the veteran’s tuition.

For example:

  • A veteran wants to attend a private, out-of-state university with tuition of $60,000 per year, and the school has agreed to waive $10,000 in tuition for Yellow Ribbon participants.
  • The VA will match that $10,000, making the total tuition waived $20,000.
  • The Post-9/11 GI Bill pays $22,805.34, and the Yellow Ribbon Program waives $20,000, making the veteran responsible for $17,194.66 in tuition that he or she can pay out-of-pocket or with the help of financial aid.

As stated on Military.com, schools can limit the amount of tuition they waive, the number of students they choose to waive tuition for, and the specific programs they choose to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Post University is a proud participant of the Yellow Ribbon Program, and our programs are also listed in the Defense Activity for Nontraditional Education Support (DANTES) catalog, which means veterans can receive tuition reimbursement support under DANTES for the Army, Marine Corps, Army Reserves, Air Force Reserves, and the Air National Guard.

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