Personal development is just that – personal. No one should have to tell you to improve yourself, and yet we live in a society that expects people to be college graduates in order to be hired for many jobs. The decision whether or not to go back to school can be a challenging one. The decision when to go back to school is even more difficult. Both require a bit of personal reflection, and a question about what goals you are working towards.
In the military a bachelor’s degree can be the difference between an enlisted soldier and an officer. Specific doors are open to people with degrees that are not available to those without. Therefore receiving one can have significant effects on your future potential within the military.
For many years the GI bill that was available was the Montgomery GI Bill. It provided up to 36 months of benefits that paid directly to the student for the cost of classes. The student could be either in the military at the time or have left service, but the payout would be the same.
What followed after 9/11 was the Post-9/11 GI Bill. While still paying for the same 36 months, this GI bill pays directly to the school, pays a housing stipend to the student, and provides additional funds for the cost of books and supplies. There is just one catch; to enjoy the full benefits of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, you cannot be currently in the military. After separating from the military, all of the benefits become available, otherwise it will only pay the amount to the school.
There are many additional benefits available for furthering your education. Military service members can take CLEP tests which give academic credit for courses at no cost, providing them with much needed school credits to further their education. Tuition assistance and testing centers provide training and certifications. In most cases service members can work with schools in the event that military training times conflict with required timelines for school projects and assignments. Once a service member leaves the military though, these options are gone for good and will have to be paid for out of pocket.
A question to ask is whether you want to continue your time in the military or transition out. For the person who does not want to get out of the military, they can take college courses while still serving. Unless service members are planning on a Green to Gold type program, which includes leaving the service to get a degree and coming back as an officer, they should look at programs which can be taken locally or online.
In an attempt to gain a growing number of students without increasing housing available, many schools have begun to offer online courses. The benefit of these are that no matter how many times you PCS, the school is just a mouse click away. The downside is that some people find it difficult to set and establish timelines when they do not actually have to walk into a classroom.
Service members who prefer brick and mortar universities can still take classes while in uniform. Opportunities exist for service members that reenlist to take a semester’s worth of classes while still in. Depending on the course load requirements, this can be an opportunity to seek certifications, or even close out degrees. The downside is that a PCS may result in lost opportunities at the school, but it is likely that most of the credits will transfer to the next one.
For service members who want to move on to the next stage in their lives, they should ensure that they meet the criteria for the Post 9/11 GI Bill. This requires 90 days of active service since September, 11, 2001. A school should be identified and applied for while still in to reduce the break in pay and increase the likelihood of a smooth transition. The VA should be contacted well in advance and all paperwork properly completed. This will provide the service member not only with the GI bill to pay for tuition, but also to cover the average cost of housing and a book stipend.
The final decision will come down to the individual. By balancing future goals with current opportunities, each service member can make an informed decision as they proceed with their education.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.