Use Your Education BenefitsWe published this on June 20, 2016,
There is plenty of information available to active duty and veteran personnel regarding your military education benefits. For example, I could write an article attempting to explain these ultimately simple benefits and processes (e.g. how your BAH allotment is calculated, how to see which institutions offer the Yellow Ribbon Program, or how to apply for and best utilize military tuition assistance during active duty). But that would be a waste of your time and mine because if you are reading this you have Google. My ability to link you the above information was not of product of my “GI Bill expertise,” but a product of about two minutes of searching.
This article is going to offer you a much different style of guidance than what is typically given in veteran support forums, or rather, a simple and clear instruction: Use your education benefits!
College affordability and student loan debt is a major issue – but not for you. The U.S. Department of Education posits three indictments that the 99% of Americans who haven’t worn the uniform face:
- Even as a college degree or other postsecondary credential or certificate has never been more important, it has also never been more expensive. Over the past three decades, tuition at public four-year colleges has more than doubled, even after adjusting for inflation.
- Between 1992 and 2012, the average amount owed by a typical student loan borrower who graduated with a bachelor’s degree more than doubled to a total of nearly $27,000.
- Even after historic investments by the Obama Administration, the maximum Pell Grant covers only about 30 percent of the cost of a four-year public college education—the lowest proportion in history and less than half of what it covered in 1980.
Arguably the #1 problem for U.S. millennials is the issue listed above. And it does not apply to you.
Here are my recommendations:
First, if you are still on active duty, schedule a meeting at your installations education center tomorrow, and tell them you want to use your tuition assistance benefits. Speak with a counselor and develop a plan (or even contact me if you want more advice or ideas to get started).
This is what I did. In two and a half years I completed my undergraduate degree and spent nothing. I was also able to get a full year and half of credit based upon my military service and education.
Second, if you are a veteran, or in the process of transitioning out of the military, access and begin utilizing your GI Bill benefits, and apply to a university (most universities waive application fees for veterans, by the way). Again, here I could tell you where this information is and the step by step process you have to go through, but I’m not going to. While writing this I Googled “how to use your GI Bill.” I recommend you do the same.
This is what I did. In two years I completed my master’s degree, spent nothing on my tuition or books, and got paid over $2,000 a month in BAH. Because I also had a full-time job, I literally was paid to get my master’s degree. I still have two years left of GI Bill benefits. I’m going to go get another degree in the near future because, why not? I’ll literally be getting paid to gain skills, knowledge, and accreditation that will in turn result in employers paying me more money.
Getting your degree(s) takes time and effort, but the process for getting it for free (or in most cases, making money to do it), is easy.
Take my advice. Use your military education benefits and be the envy of 99% of Americans.
Evan Thomsen served in the Army from 2009 to 2014. He graduated with his B.S. in International Security and Intelligence Studies from Bellevue University in 2014, and his M.A. in International Affairs from the George Washington University, Elliott School of International Affairs in 2016. He currently works for a Congolese-based development NGO and is the CEO of Red Sun Information Systems, an open-source research and technology start-up.