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I wanted to take this opportunity to welcome everyone to our re-vamped blog on military education, which has been updated and tweaked along with the Military Education Benefits for College website. I would be remiss if I didn't thank our web developer Chris Williams for the very hard work that went into making it go smoothly. Looking forward to making this the resource for discussion on veteran education topics!
Ever since there has been higher learning it seems there have been attempts to gauge the effectiveness of future, current and former military minds in traditional classroom settings. With military prep schools and service academies being deemed model higher learning institutions and the emergence of veterans on traditional campuses at a growing rate transforming the populations of college campuses nationwide, the overwhelming majority of studies done on this topic have pointed to a positive correlation between the two.
But does one's military service necessarily make for a more engaged student?
A recent study tackled this topic and was featured in Inside HigherEd. Among the key points of interest from this study, courtesy of the Indiana University's School of Education, were that although this study has been out for over a decade, this is the first time that students who were or are currently in the military were studied. This is not as remarkable as it seems considering that until recently veterans have comprised about 3.5% of students on average at college campuses. However, with the recent influx of returning veterans from two wars in the Middle East, the declining economy and the new Post 9/11 GI Bill it is plausible that this number could easily exceed 5% in the very near future if it hasn't already.
The difference in the veteran student from a demographic standpoint was also noted in the study, including the fact that the veteran student is older, often male and tends to gravitate towards a smaller college often in a distant learning format.
The primary finding of the article was that the veteran student spent an equal amount of time studying as their non-veteran peers, but was often less engaged in the university as a whole--this despite of being pleased with their college experience overall.
This could be attributed to a number of reasons:
This article from the Yuma Sun is a demonstration of what’s happening right now with what the military is paying for with education–cutbacks. As fiscal crisis continues to pound at America with reckless abandon, the military is forced to streamline their offerings in more and more programs. What we’re finding is that the sooner you use them and the better a job you do of ensuring a solid outcome from your studies, the more hopes you have that the government will pay out your military education benefits.
Witness my blog earlier this week on the My CAA program. Using it early meant not only using it before the benefits were reduced, but also using it early on in your career–as was indicated by the changes that the benefits as they stand now are only applicable for the spouses of E5s and lower on the enlisted end and O3s and lower on the officer end.
This situation is different. The cutbacks in payment for a second DANTES test are reflected in the outcome of your test. The reason for this may have been that too many people, in an effort to get credit for tests as soon as possible to meet requirements for degree programs or to obtain credits, were taking them before they were ready. Somewhere along the line, this trend was observed and the military acted accordingly. The rule now is that the military will no longer pay for tests that are re-taken.
As mentioned previously and as specified in the article, this is designed to make sure that nobody is taking the test without studying or ill-prepared and hoping for the best. In defense of those who made this decision, there was probably considerable oversight in that area and that’s something that needed to be addressed to save money.
However, the bigger picture is that of the tightening pursestrings of the government on how and where military dollars are allocated. This means that while there are still many dollars still out there for you to take advantage of for furthering your education, there are now also that many more pitfalls you may encounter that you should be aware of along the way.
Do not take your education, or the use of your education dollars provided by the miltiary service of you or someone else,lightly. As recent trends would indicate, they are not a perpetual resource with infinite reserves. Use them well, but use them wisely.
Click here for an article from the July 22nd Minneapolis/St. Paul Star-Tribune
The My CAA program, which allows spouses to attend school tuition free, has not been without it’s difficulties as of late. It suffered an administrative shut-down earlier in the year that left many spouses attending school in a bit of a bind. It was re-worked to meet the demand, so it seemed, and was unveiled to be returning to the fray stronger than ever. That was until earlier this summer when another shut-off occurred. This particular shut-off was especially devastating, since this happened to occur right before the start of the academic year in September when everyone is preparing to attend schools.
Now, the My CAA program has returned again, but this time with serious caps to the payout. According to the Star-Tribune article above, it no longer pays $6000 in payment for classes, it now pays only $4000. Additionally, its use is now limited to the lowest enlisted ranks (E1-E5) and junior-grade officers only.
So why the big changes? Turns out that much like the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the My CAA program was not aware of the sheer volume of participants who would be looking to take advantage of it. The surge in Afghanistan and the slower than expected exit from Iraq mean that more military personnel are deployed overseas and the abundance of education options available currently means that more spouses at home are looking to bide their time away from loved ones by enhancing their education. The My CAA program is a terrific option.
However, to start a program and stop is just not good business. While it’s easy to see that the program is struggling, so was the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Sure–funds were held up for awhile, customer service call time took over an hour and changes were implemented on the fly to meet demand. The Post 9/11 GI Bill program was in a funk for a long time and arguably still is. But the VA to their credit never halted the program altogether after committing to unrolling it on 1 August 2009. Once that date came, people were helped and those who were eligible were never turned away or refused. They may have taken extremely long to be processed and money amounts may have at times been incorrect, but overall the VA truly did everything they could with the resources they were given. Hiccups aside, they should be commended for keeping the program going even when things got impossibly tough (as an college enrollment counselor for military students, I could tell it was at that point).
But to stop a program completely to re-vamp it, administratively or otherwise, is especially tough on students who have a time line to complete their class payments and change eligibility without informing the users is a tough pill to swallow. The changes in eligibility not only included the ranks of the spouses serving and the dollar amount available, but also the types of programs they can use their My CAA money on. It now can only be used on professional certificates, continuing education courses or associates degrees, and not a bachelor’s degree or graduate-level classes.
And yet, who can we blame? The program was under-funded and misspent from the get-go. But this does not answer for the thousands of military spouses who served their country in the absence of their loved ones who are looking to use their benefits to improve their lives but now cannot because of the restructuring of the program. Sadly, they are the ones who are left on the outside looking in. I sincerely hope that through financial aid, other military grants and scholarships or a transfer in GI Bill benefits from their spouses, they are able to pay for their educational endeavors.
From Ed’s great home state of Massachusetts, Horace Mann was one of the founders of the United States education system. About 200 years ago, he was quoted as saying the following:
“Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men…”
This quote has been one of the mantras of our book from the start. It can literally change, enrich and improve your life, as well as the lives of those around you.
To prove that point and positively impact the lives of those who need help, we have chosen to contribute 15% of our proceeds from all books sold exclusively through our website to the Wounded Warrior Project. The Wounded Warrior Project is dedicated to empowering severely injured service members, something we all can agree is a cause that’s worth contributing to.
It is our sincere hope that our book will help greatly improve the lives of all of the service connected students who read the book. Now, you know that by purchasing the book through our website, you will also be helping our injured service members improve their lives as well.
We look forward to a long and fruitful partnership with the Wounded Warrior Project and a lasting legacy of positively impacted for those who read our book.
As one of the authors of Military Education Benefits for College, I’d like to welcome you to the first entry in our blog!
For those of you who are curious, the title of this blog is part of the tagline for our book: “Improving the Most Powerful Weapon of All…Your Mind!” We thought it was an ideal title for the blog–a segue from the book, but a bit more ambiguous.
So what can you expect from us? For starters, exactly what those of you who read the book would expect. We’re going to be using this as a forum to discuss this issue at length, which has become acause celebre for the authors. This not only stems from the fact that we are both veterans who have used our benefits to attend collge, but Ed and I also work at a university dealing with military, dependent and veteran students alike. When we come across anything that we think our readers will find interesting, or that we think will spark some debate or inspiration, be certain we will post it here. This will be a natural progression from our quick messages we post on our Twitter and Facebook sites dedicated to the book, which may have led some of you here. If you can think of anything you’d like us to discuss here or investigate for you, please feel free to mention it to us here or anywhere else.
As first-time authors, we’re novices in the writing experience and the process of having a book published. It’s all still very new to us, so we have a natural curiosity and excitement with our experiences and will share them with you. Every so often, we’ll discuss the unique experiences we’ll have meeting fellow veterans, authors and others along the trail of promoting the book. We’ll share any press we get for the book with you here as well, as with our other social media outlets (Facebook and Twitter).
Ed and I are also veterans of the military ourselves. We may tell the obligatory war story from time to time.
Lastly, I’ll speak strictly for myself here–I do like to go on tangents and discuss other things. I’m pretty passionate about my interests, so this may prove to be a forum for that from time to time. This time of year you may hear me talk briefly about how my Mets are doing (mighty fine at this particular time, might I add) or my many rounds of awful golf leaving triple-digit scorecards in my wake. I also may briefly talk about current events. Here’s an example: If you want to stop the oil spill, build a golf course near the site. Put a par four third hole with a tight lie to the left asjacent to the leak. Ask me to bring out my driver and hit away. I guarantee that hole will be filled right up. See that? Killed two birds with one stone right there!
So in closing, I hope you all enjoy our blog, which we hope to be slightly informative, provocative and at times–entertaining and enjoyable. I’ll leave you with a last parting thought from another former resident of our great state of Connecticut:
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”
One small manageable task down.
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