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Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Supporting Veterans to Attend Accredited College Programs

This article is brought to you courtesy of June Olson. June recently graduated with a degree in educational psychology. She currently works as a writer on all things education and is always interested in connecting with bloggers online.  You may reach June at

The argument that many veterans need education and numerous support systems when they return from service is a no-brainer. Adjusting to civilian life after being away at war or stationed abroad is no joke. An economic downturn adds to the problem by making it hard to find a job. Feeling stressed and confused, a veteran must then compete with masses of qualified candidates for very few jobs. Veterans need effective support systems and support for colleges online or on campus that consider all aspects of their needs, including financial assistance and access to educational and/or vocational training.      

When a veteran returns from war, life can be overwhelming. Going from the camaraderie of military life to living alone or readjusting to family is only one factor. Flashbacks to horrifying war images can be common emotional setbacks. Figuring out the next step in life can be mind-boggling and stressful. Especially for veterans who did not go to college or train for an occupation before joining the military, career options can seem limited. Veterans often transition from a situation of a set military schedule and structure to a life of ambiguities and lack of direction.

Searching for work in a tight job market only complicates things. A veteran might be a skilled carpenter but live in an area with no openings in carpentry. Gaining knowledge and skills that can be applied to available jobs is an important first step. Starting college or going back to finish a degree becomes essential for getting a job.

Fortunately, help exists. Veterans interested in college programs that offer two-year degrees or higher can benefit from GI bill programs. The Post-9/11 GI Bill gives veterans who served for at least 90 days on or after September 11, 2001 access to benefits for attending accredited colleges and universities. Benefits include a percentage of tuition and fees, a monthly housing allowance, a stipend for books and supplies and $500 in cash for veterans who must relocate from a highly rural area to go to school. This program also offers tutorial assistance benefits and reimbursement of up to $2,000 for a certification or licensing test. Veterans can receive benefits for up to 36 months under this bill, which helps them get back on their feet.
The Yellow Ribbon Program is another alternative. Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, degree-granting institutions can make funds available for veterans through this program. The tuition amount is left up to the university; the VA matches that amount and pays the university directly. Veterans must then apply to the university, which then looks at its number of open slots and notifies the veteran of acceptance into the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Between 2008 and 2010, the number of veterans who took advantage of VA education programs increased tremendously. Although the number of VA undergraduate attendees decreased during that time, attendance in non-degree and vocational programs saw a significant rise. This trend may continue as more veterans take advantage of educational benefits programs.

Short-term training and education assistance is also available for unemployed veterans through the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program. For veterans who are at least 35 and ineligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill or other VA-sponsored education benefit programs, this program may be the answer. It gives participants a year's worth of full-time pay while enrolled in an approved technical school or community college. They must train specifically for high demand occupations in a program that leads to a certification or associates degree. Through this and other GI bill programs, veterans can ease the transition to civilian life by going to school and becoming equipped for a tight job market.