When I separated from the military in 2008 I had earned the Montgomery GI Bill benefit. When the Post 9/11 GI Bill went into effect, I transferred over and have been nothing but happy with that decision ever since. I’m almost done with my Master’s degree and I haven’t paid much out of pocket for it.
However, other veterans haven’t fared as well. Some for-profit schools claim that they are military friendly and have recruited veterans to enroll. But when it comes down to rating the true educational value to the veteran, some are finding that the schools aren’t quite as military friendly as they claim to be.
If you are returning from the war or you are thinking about using your Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to go to school, here are some tips to ensure you are getting your money’s worth and that the school is truly looking out for you as a veteran and not you as a cash cow.
Job Placement Help for Veterans. Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits may provide you living expenses for a while, but what about when you are done with classes? Although recent job reports indicate that the economy may be making a comeback, veterans are still among the higher population of the unemployed. A school should have a good job placement program that’s an advantage to veterans. If they don’t have one, your school liaison should know more about veteran employment advantages than you do. For example, many states offer veterans preference for hiring.
Military Credit Transfer Process. Military-friendly schools offer credits for military education, but what courses are they willing to accept? What programs do they give credit towards? If the school recruiter can’t answer those questions or give you a school resource for them, maybe it’s time to move onto another school.
Veteran Graduation Rates. It’s one thing to start and pay for classes with your Post 9/11 GI Bill, but it’s another to actually graduate. You could find yourself in unexpected debt if your school has a notoriously low graduation rate. If people aren’t graduating, they may not be failing. You get 36 months of benefits with the Post 9/11 GI Bill. They could be just transferring to another school and, in turn, waste those months. When I thought I was going to move out of state, I looked into how many of my school credits would transfer over to another institution. I had earned 36 graduate school credit hours but all the other institutions would only accept six. It’s a good thing I didn’t move!
GI Bill Payment Schedule. You may have to ask current students about how efficient your school’s payment system is. Under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, your school sends a certification to the Veterans Administration every month to let them know you are enrolled. Once accepted, the VA will send your tuition benefit directly to the school. They also internally certify you to receive your BAH benefits if you qualify. If something changes in the system like a missed certification, school transfer or failed class, you could be stuck with a bill from the school that you don’t owe. This could be a big problem for veterans who are still active and may miss classes due to military service.