The United States Military and Higher Education

Personnel in the United States Military working towards a post-military career or pursuing a long-held ambition of acquiring a college degree can gain higher education even while serving on active duty. The GI Bill, which covers education assistance programs administered by the Department of Veteran Affairs, helps veterans and active duty personnel who want to pursue an education. In fiscal year 2008, more than 540,000 personnel made use of the benefits of the GI Bill. [Source: Qibill.va.gov]

The GI Bill

The GI Bill was signed into law in 1944 by President Roosevelt. As per the Bill, the Department of Veterans Administration (VA) was responsible for executing the law's key provisions: education and training, loan guaranty for homes, farms or businesses, and unemployment pay.

In 1984, The GI Bill was revamped by Congressman Gillespie V. "Sonny" Montgomery and has been called the Montgomery Bill since. The GI Bill was updated once again in 2008 - giving veterans with active duty service on or after September 11, 2001, advanced educational benefits.

Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, approved training includes graduate and undergraduate degrees, vocational and technical training. A detailed list of programs covered by the GI Bill:
  • IHL (Institutions of Higher Learning)
  • NCD (Non-College Degree Programs)
  • On-the-Job & Apprenticeship Training
  • Flight Training
  • Independent Training, Distance Learning, & Internet Training
  • Correspondence Training
  • National Testing Program
  • Licensing & Certification
  • Entrepreneurship Training
  • Work-Study Program
  • Co-op Training
  • Accelerated Payment
  • Tuition Assistance Top-Up
  • Tutorial Assistance Program

The Benefits of the GI Bill

Money sanctioned under the Post-9/11 GI Bill

The student or the approved school will receive a percentage based on the length of active duty service. Generally, this would amount to the tuition and fees charged to an in-state student at the most expensive public institution of higher education in the U.S.

A monthly housing allowance, equivalent to the basic housing allowance paid to grade E-5 with dependents, is also made available.

The new GI Bill also covers payment of a yearly book and supplies stipend of up to 1000 USD and a one-time payment of 500 USD for relocation from extreme rural areas.

On Active Duty

For personnel who have completed at least 90 days of active service (does not include basic entry level training and skill training), tuition will be paid by the Post-9/11 GI Bill. However, the tuition will depend on the time period served and cannot exceed the amount not paid by military tuition assistance and/or the total amount of tuition and fees.

Also, the housing allowance portion or the book/supplies stipend will not be paid by the GI Bill to personnel on active duty.

While Training Overseas

Personnel can also avail of the GI Bill benefits while training overseas - however, these will differ from benefits available for training in the U.S. [Source: Qibill.va.gov]

Taking Online Courses Overseas

Online courses are the best options for personnel serving in the military as they work for rigorous, sometimes fluctuating hours while on active duty. The military covers 100% tuition costs and the flexibility of doing coursework at home or during off-duty hours is a big bonus. Undergraduate and even masters' degrees can be obtained via these courses and their high accessibility makes them a first choice for military personnel. Balancing workload and continuing education is possible with online courses. Further details can be found in this article Online Degrees. Information about taking online classes and getting a degree online is also included.

Some of the top military-friendly schools offering online degrees are:
Kaplan University, National American University, Allied Schools, American Sentinel University, ECPI College of Technology, Jones International University, Walden University, and Capella University. [Source: ArmyStudyGuide.com]

Getting an Education in the Military

According to first-person accounts by military students on ArmyStudyGuide.com, online degrees enabled them to gain an education even while serving in war zones. For instance, in one case, the degrees a military student in the Army pursued are part of his game plan to become a park ranger or a high school teacher after his army stint comes to an end. In spite of serving all over the world, including Iraq, he was able to access material for coursework online.

The first step is to find a good college that offers a degree of choice and enroll. Students should expect to spend an average of 4-5 hours per week on assignments, coursework and projects. Notes and lectures are accessed via the Web and a special student ID. While in the virtual classroom, students can participate in chat rooms, discussion groups or email groups. The professor communicates via email with the students.

Some challenges faced by online students is the fact that queries or doubts with the coursework might get answered a little later than in a traditional classroom. Also, since a lot of discipline is needed to follow an online schedule, students are advised to start with a lighter load at first.

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