July 9, 2018

What veterans need to know about higher education

By Amanda Fox, registrar & interim coordinator of veteran affairs

Guest Column, published July 4, 2018 in the Shelby County Reporter

Veterans have the most sought-after skills employers value including leadership, management, problem solving, logistics, strategic thinking and teamwork, to name a few. If your occupational pursuit after service requires you to go to college, here are some resources that may help.

Federal GI Bills help provide funding for college for veterans, but you must apply for them. The application for Federal GI Bills is online. The most common programs include:

  • Montgomery GI Bill (Chapter 30 and Chapter 1606) – Assist active duty and Reservists seeking a degree, certificate, or other training.
  • Post 9/11 GI Gill (Chapter 33) – Higher education and training benefits to veterans, service members and their families who served after Sept. 10, 2001.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Services (CH 31) – Assists veterans and service members with education and career counseling.

You can research other services and benefits on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website and the State of Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs website. Additionally, check out the U.S. Department of Labor’s scholarship search tool: careeronestop.org/

Choosing a college or training program is like interviewing a new employee and checking references. This is your future you’re planning after all! The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs has a list of online resources to help you get started.

Talk to the admissions officer or director at the school or training program you are interested in. Do they offer the program you need? Do you want traditional on-campus classes, hands on training, or night or online classes? Are they accredited – state, regionally, nationally?

Ask how your benefits will apply to the cost. Ask and seek out the resources available through the school, such as the career center, counseling, technology help desk, campus veteran groups, disability support services and tutoring services. The Veterans’ Office on campus can be a great first stop to connect to these services.

When you apply to a college, make sure you submit an official copy of your military transcript. Many institutions, including the University of Montevallo, award course credit applied to degree requirements based on your military training. Many also accept DSST and CLEP tests with qualifying scores for credit.

Ask for a copy of your degree evaluation or program course of study. Whether the evaluation is done online or on paper, it will be an important resource for your success. After your previous experience and/or college work is posted, you will be able to see what is left for you to complete the program. Use all the resources available to you.

Lastly, make sure you understand how your benefits, federal financial aid and scholarships apply to your account. Meet with the veterans’ coordinator, the financial aid office and the cashier’s office. Ask how much your program will cost, how much aid you have and when will it be applied to your account. Find out how much you will owe and when it is due. Many institutions offer payment plans to help with out-of-pocket costs. Finally, ask about any textbook funding with your GI Bill and how you can access it.

Above all, thank you for your service. It is our honor to serve you now.

Additional resources for new veterans seeking education or occupation assistance: