The Secret to Applying to College as a Military Veteran

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Veterans Education

As service members consider the choices available to them when they transition out of the military, many are faced with a difficult decision. The path to civilian life is not always straightforward, and the job security of the military appears alluring when one considers the unknowns of easing back into civilian life.

In this article, my aim is to use my story of transitioning from the Air Force to Yale University to help fellow veterans realize their options in the realm of education.

By Robert Henderson

Like many fresh-faced service members straight out of high school, I planned to attend college after completing a four-year enlistment in the Air Force. And again, a story familiar to all veterans, plans change and unexpected re-enlistments occur. Seven years later, the time had come: My contract was ending in one year. Finally, I could pursue my original plan of attending college and I had an abundant resource to fund this next phase of my life: The Post-9/11 GI Bill. While I understood the worth of this asset, I was unsure how to go about maximizing its value.

One thing I knew for certain was that I wanted to aim high (no pun intended for my fellow Air Force veterans). I had developed a love for knowledge during my years in the military. I had read hundreds of books, took night classes, and watched free lectures on YouTube during downtime on deployments. I was not the best student in high school but I had built a strong GPA taking part-time college courses while I served. My plan was to be accepted into the best possible school. Still, the application process for selective colleges can be daunting—especially for a first-generation applicant with an unusual backstory. Moreover, there appeared to be few resources that offered guidance to nontraditional applicants.

There were two obstacles in my path as I considered my decision to attend college. The first is that there were not many places to turn for advice on how to apply to a top tier college. In fact, while most of my enlisted colleagues were supportive of my efforts, a few senior enlisted individuals seemed skeptical when I told them the schools to which I had applied. To some of them, a veteran attending a top tier college was outside the realm of possibility.

The second obstacle was the transition assistance class designed to help veterans ease into civilian life. The military now requires individuals to attend this class, which primarily focuses on seeking civilian employment after leaving the military, rather than capitalizing on education benefits. The class instructor took it for granted that the majority of veterans in our class would elect to work rather than earn a degree. During a resume workshop, I asked the instructor, an employee for the Department of Labor, if we could discuss college applications. He recommended I stop by his office after the class. I took him up on the offer. He spent 15 minutes extolling the wonderment of the GI Bill but had no insight on how to apply to college as a veteran.

Luckily I had found two programs that offered exactly the sort of guidance I needed. The first organization is the Warrior-Scholar Project, an academic workshop held at universities across the country geared toward helping veterans rediscover the academic skills necessary to succeed in college. The second program is called Service to School, which links veterans who are currently attending college with a veteran seeking higher education. The student veteran acts as a mentor, guiding the applicant through the college admissions process. I now work as a mentor for Service to School, and recently helped a former Marine receive admission to Brown University.

It is important to do your research when preparing for your transition. One question often raised by fellow veterans is how they can afford to attend certain universities. The GI Bill covers the cost of tuition for state universities, they say, but how can veterans afford an expensive private school? The answer is that many colleges offer the Yellow Ribbon program, which is designed to offset remaining costs that the GI Bill does not cover. Moreover, certain schools have generous financial aid policies. Scour the websites of colleges that interest you, and if you have specific questions, do not hesitate to contact them.

As a college-bound veteran, you must create opportunities for yourself. Do not be reluctant to seek help, and say yes when others offer it. While military promotes collaboration and teamwork, sometimes veterans are so self-reliant that it verges on impediment. Someday you will be in a position to offer help to others. Until that point, accept the generosity of people in such positions. In a future post, I’ll discuss why veterans hold themselves back from applying to top tier colleges. These include class differences, too few success stories, and mindset barriers.

Why Veterans With GI Bill Benefits Still Take Out Student Loans

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servicemember holding school books

Why are so many veterans taking out student loans when GI bill benefits cover full tuition and fees at public universities, and at least partial tuition and fees at private universities?

In new survey results released today, The Pew Charitable Trusts found that most veterans who take out student loans do so to pay living expenses. Even though bill benefits also include stipends to cover books, supplies, and housing allowances, veteran borrowers face unique challenges and often have to juggle additional financial obligations, such as child care.

Nearly 6 in 10 U.S. military veterans who have taken out student loans cite living expenses, such as housing and child care, as their main reason for borrowing, according to a first-of-its-kind, nationally representative survey of veterans who have taken out student loans.

The survey—conducted for The Pew Charitable Trusts among veterans who served after Sept. 11, 2001—helps shed light on a key mystery: why so many are taking on student loan debt despite having access to robust Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

A separate Pew analysis done earlier this year using U.S. Department of Education data found that just over a quarter of veterans in undergraduate programs took out loans, with a median amount of $8,000 in the 2015-16 academic year.

The questions in the survey were crafted to give a better sense of how veterans use the borrowed money, including a request to rank the expenses covered with student loan dollars. Among the key findings:

  • 58% of those who took out student loans said they borrowed primarily to cover living expenses. The most commonly cited were housing costs (21%) and day-to-day expenses, such as groceries and child care (17%). (See Figure 1 for more detail.)
  • 42% cited educational expenses as the primary cost they borrowed to cover. Most chose tuition and fees (36%), while a small proportion selected books and supplies (6%).

Read the complete article on Pewtrusts.org

Answering Your Top Questions on the Yellow Ribbon Program

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Female cadet with backpack and laptop against American flag. Military education

The Yellow Ribbon Program, as many veterans turned students know, is a provision of the Post-9/11 GI Bill that can help cover the expenses that do not automatically apply for veterans.

Unlike the GI Bill, the Yellow Ribbon Program acts similarly to a scholarship, in that it must be met by certain criteria and enter into an agreement between your school and the Department of Veteran Affairs. This provision, though helpful, can come with a lot of questions on its proceedings. Here are some of the top questions on the Yellow Ribbon Program, answered.

What do I need to qualify for the Yellow Ribbon Program?

To qualify to receive the Yellow Ribbon benefits a veteran must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Served at least 36 months on active duty (either all at once or with breaks in service)
  • Received a Purple Heart on or after September 11, 2001, and were honorably discharged after any amount of service
  • Served for at least 30 continuous days (all at once, without a break) on or after September 11, 2001, and were discharged after 60 days with a service-connected disability
  • Are a dependent child using benefits transferred by a Veteran or a service member who has served for at least 36 months on active duty and qualifies at the 100% level
  • Are a Fry Scholar (eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program on or after August 1, 2018

What does my school need to qualify for the Yellow Ribbon Program?

For schools to eligible in the Yellow Ribbon Program, they must adhere to all of the following criteria:

  • Must be an institution of higher learning
  • Offers the Yellow Ribbon Program
  • Hasn’t offered the Yellow Ribbon benefit to more than the maximum number of students in their agreement with the VA
  • Has certified your enrollment with the VA and provided Yellow Ribbon Program information

How do benefits work through the program?

Money to help pay for the higher cost of tuition at a private school or for attendance as a nonresident student at a public school. If you qualify, your school will contribute a certain amount toward your extra tuition and fees through a grant, scholarship, or similar program. Whatever contribution is provided will be matched by the VA.
Do all students in the Yellow Ribbon Program receive the same amount of funding?

This depends on the school. Schools can choose to offer different amounts to students based on 2 factors:

  • Student status (undergraduate, graduate, doctoral), and
  • Type of school (college or professional)

For example, a school could provide $1,000 for undergraduates, $1,500 for graduate students and $2,000 for doctoral students. The school also could provide $1,800 for students in the school of engineering and $2,500 for students in the school of nursing.

Will all of my tuition and fees be paid if my school participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program?

This depends on the agreement we have with your school. Your school’s agreement with the VA states how much it will contribute and how much we’ll match. This amount makes up all or part of the difference between what the Post-9/11 GI Bill will pay and the unmet tuition and fees.

What fees will the program cover?

The Yellow Ribbon Program may cover any required fees to your education. This does not include penalty fees, room and board, and study abroad programs that are not required to your graduation.

Do I have to attend full time to be in the Yellow Ribbon Program?

No, part-time students may also qualify.

If I participate in the program this year, will I automatically receive the same amount of funding next year?

Yes, as long as you stay enrolled without interruption.

If I leave my school, but return after a semester, am I still approved for the Yellow Ribbon Program?

If the school still offers the program, they must continue to give you funding as long as you meet all of the requirements listed below:

  • Make acceptable progress toward completing your school
  • Stay enrolled in the school without a break (following the school’s policy)
  • Have money left in your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits

Source: Wikipedia and the Department of Veterans Affairs

10 Tips for College-Seeking Veterans

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Veteran in uniform holding books with a U.S. flag behind him

These tips are courtesy of the National Association of Veterans’ Programs Administrator (NAVPA).

These are their 10 best suggestions for returning veterans thinking about going to college as reported to U.S. News and World Report.

  1. Start by applying. Whether you are a first-time college student or a transfer student, you must fill out an application. Go to the school’s website to find the requirement and deadlines. Provide transcripts and test scores as needed and your DD-214 for credits you might have earned while in the service. Take a tour of the campus—either online or in person.
  2. Meet the School Certifying Official. Find the Veterans Office on campus and introduce yourself. You will be asked to provide various documents and complete different forms so your enrollment can be certified to the VA.
  3. Get your GI Bill benefits. There are many different programs and a wide variety of education benefits offered by the VA. The Post-9/11 GI Bill (including Transfer of Benefits), Montgomery GI Bill, the Yellow Ribbon Program, and Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment, to name a few. Additionally, individual states offer varying opportunities to National Guardsmen (some of the benefits come with different levels of eligibility). Whether you are a reservist, in the National Guard, or on active duty, you should check the VA website or discuss your benefits with the school’s certifying official. You can find a wealth of information—as well as the application for benefits—at the GI Bill website.
  4. Apply for financial aid. All students can apply for financial aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by going to http://www.fafsa.gov. This aid can be for grants, loans, and/or work-study.
  5. Apply for scholarships. There are many types of scholarships available based on merit, academics, or athletics, as well as private and general scholarships by area of interest. Some schools offer scholarships specifically for veterans. You just have to look. Check the school’s website and always remember: do not pay for any scholarship application.
  6. Find a place to live. The key to being placed in housing is making sure you indicate you are a veteran on all forms. By doing so, you may be able to select a roommate from the beginning. Otherwise, you might be assigned a room with traditional students (just out of high school), which can be awkward with your recent military experience. Many colleges have housing set aside for veterans; make use of it.
  7. Get an advisor. Every student is assigned to an advisor. Some schools have advisors specifically for veterans; smaller schools may not, but curriculum is standard for majors at each school. Interaction with the advisor will assist you in developing a suitable educational plan, making your course selections, and determining your major. This person will get to know you and empower you in decision-making skills in education, career, and life choices.
  8. Take the CLEP. The College Level Examination Program is a series of exams you can take to test your college-level knowledge on what you have learned through on-the-job training, professional development, etc. There is a wide range of exams both general and subjective, with up to six credits each. The cost of a CLEP is fractional compared to the cost of tuition and fees. It could assist in skipping general introductory courses, general education classes, or could even demonstrate your ability in a foreign language.
  9. Connect with other veterans on campus. Veterans Centers are popping up on many campuses. They are the place to meet other veterans, to do peer-to-peer networking, to connect student veterans with resources, and to help you to get involved or simply hang out. If there is no center on campus, start one. Student Veterans of America can assist you in forming a chapter at your school.
  10. Get career training and develop skills. Career services and job placement are available for you while getting your education. Resume writing and mock interviews are offered. You can be placed in an internship or co-op program related to your career goal and earn college credits as well as a stipend or small paycheck.

Source: Aims Community College

VA Expands Post 9/11 GI Bill Benefits for Dependents

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African American male soldier holding his daughter with a US flag

For many, the opportunity to pursue education and training beyond high school is not easily within reach. When military members are asked why they serve, the available GI Bill® education benefits are often one reason.

As a part of their earned benefits, active-duty men and women can also transfer all or part of their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to their spouse and/or dependent children. This is called Transfer of Entitlement (TOE). Those wishing to transfer entitlement to a dependent must be sure to do this while still on active duty.

The option to transfer education assistance to dependent family members provides them with the financial means to pay for their education and training.

However, until recently, this benefit was not available to all dependent children. With the recent passing of the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020, commonly referred to as Isakson and Roe, beginning January 6, 2021, service members can transfer all or part of their Post-9/11 GI Bill entitlement to their ward or foster child. This new law changes how VA administers education benefits, and more importantly, is a major step in recognizing the diversity of the nation’s military families and their unique needs.

According to the Department of Defense, more than five million people are part of today’s military family. The men and women who serve in our nation’s armed forces are a diverse group. So, too, are their families, to include spouses, children and other family members who represent varying demographics, experiences and needs. With the implementation of Isakson and Roe, VA is able to address the needs of more families and ensure that the GI Bill’s purpose is further realized.

Now, even more military dependents can receive help paying for tuition, books and housing using Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits. Eligible dependents, who are pursuing a degree or certification in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) field, can maximize their benefits through the Edith Nourse Rogers STEM Scholarship. To help pay for higher out-of-state, private or graduate tuition that the Post-9/11 GI Bill doesn’t cover, the Yellow Ribbon Program provides additional assistance.

In addition to education and training, GI Bill benefits can provide other assistance to eligible students, such as help with paying for certain test fees and help with deciding on the right school or program, using the GI Bill Comparison Tool.

In support of our nation’s military families, VA will continue to do its part to acknowledge the differences that make them unique, while ensuring that their unique needs are also met.

Source: VAntage Point (blogs.va.gov)

Going Back to School as a Military Spouse

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black woman college student holding a book

You’ve made the rewarding choice to go back to school. By pursuing your education goals, you can expand your job opportunities and boost your earning power. But where should you start?

And what military spouse scholarships are out there to help?

Start with Spouse Education and Career Opportunities — SECO. The SECO program can provide you with the resources you need to get back in the education game. The MySECO website, built exclusively for military spouses, ensures you have 24/7 online access to information fora successful return to school.

Visit the MySECO Education, Training and Licensing section to identify your education path, plan for your education and compare colleges. You can also connect with a career coach who can help you decide on an education path and how to pay for it.

Choosing the right education and training

Got a career in mind? The career you choose will determine the type of program you’ll need. Take a look at the differences between each program and decide what’s best for you.

■ Certificate Program:
Can take a few weeks, months or years to complete, depending on the subject matter. Typically focuses on specific skills and are offered at community colleges or technical schools.

■ Associate Degree:
Takes about two years to complete. Offered by community colleges, an associate degree focuses on entry-level specialization within a field.

■ Bachelor’s Degree:
Takes about four years to complete. Four-year colleges and universities award a bachelor’s degree in the arts or sciences.

■ Advanced Degree:
Takes anywhere between two and four years to complete. Degrees beyond a bachelor’s degree can include master’s, specialist, professional and doctoral degrees.

Options for a mobile military life

Don’t let a move stop you from going back to school. Consider online education or satellite campuses. You can discover and compare schools based on location, learning format, the ability to transfer credits and more with the College Scorecard on MySECO.

Scholarships for military spouses
Wondering how much is this going to cost you? Fortunately, there’s help out there. Check MySECO for financial assistance resources and career development opportunities offered specifically to military spouses and family members.

The My Career Advancement Account Scholarship is a workforce development program that provides eligible military spouses with up to $4,000 in financial assistance for licenses, certifications or associate degrees to pursue an occupation or career field. Military spouses can sometimes take advantage of their spouse’s GI Bill® benefits. Visit the veterans’ benefits section online for more information.

The U.S. Department of Education provides billions of dollars of educational loans and grants for qualifying students each year. In order to be considered for financial aid, you’ll need to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

To view the FAFSA form, and for more information, visit https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa.

Source: MilitaryOneSource

The Yellow Ribbon Program – How Much Does It Pay?

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Chair, books, soldier uniform and USA flag near light textured wall

The short answer to how much it pays is: It depends.

Several factors play into how much it pays, such as a school’s percentage of waiver, how many students they allow in their program, maximum amount paid per student, degree levels covered, departments or programs covered, and of course, VA match (which is the same as the school waivered amount).

But regardless, it turns out it’s a benefit that’s worth a lot … if you qualify and are accepted into a school’s Yellow Ribbon Program (YRP).

 

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS

First, let’s look at the requirements to qualify for the YRP, because not all veterans are eligible. Also, right now, active duty and their spouses are not eligible, but that changes in August 2022.

Because the YRP is a feature of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the first requirement is to be fully Post 9/11 GI Bill eligible (at the 100 percent tier).

You do that by meeting at least one of these requirements:

  • Served at least 36 months on active duty after September 10, 2001.
  • Having received a Purple Heart after September 10, 2001 and honorable discharged.
  • Served at least 30 continuous days after September 10, 2001 and honorably discharged for a service-connected disability.
  • Are a dependent child using transferred Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits from a qualifying veteran.
  • Are a dependent Fry Scholar.

THE YELLOW RIBBON PROGRAM

Next for eligible veterans is finding a school that is part of the YRP; not all schools participate. If your school does have a YRP agreement with the VA, then next, find out what they offer in their YRP, since not all schools offer the same.

The basic guideline is that a school can pay up to 50 percent of the unpaid difference between what the school charges in tuition and mandatory fees and the amount the Post 9/11 GI Bill pays. The VA will match what the school pays, potentially leaving the student with zero out-of-pocket costs. But in their approved agreements, many schools offer less than the 50 percent maximum.

two school comparison numbers listed on chart

As we see, the difference in tuition between the two schools is only around $4,000 per year, but when the difference in YRP and VA Match is factored in, the out-of-pocket amount that the student is responsible for is almost twice at Brown as it is at NYU. Plus, there is a greater chance of getting accepted into NYU’s YRP then at Brown because they accept more YRP students.

YRP AT PUBLIC SCHOOLS

When attending a public school, the Post 9/11 GI Bill pays up to the in-state, resident tuition rate. But veterans that have been out for three years or more may be charged the out-of-state non-resident tuition, which in many cases is at least twice that of the in-state rate. If that is the case in your situation, look for public schools that have a YRP program, as it can help pay the difference – just the same as with private schools.

Knowing a school’s YRP is one area where it literally pays you to do your homework when choosing a school. Selecting a school that has a high waiver percentage means a higher VA match in addition to what the VA is already paying in tuition and mandatory fees. It is definitely a multiplier worth researching, so that you get the maximum benefit from your Post 9/11 GI Bill.

Source:  ClearanceJobs

Mission Possible: Building a Culture of Belonging for Veterans

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Innovations Academy buiding

By Erin L. Branham, National Director, Brand and Communications, Balfour Beatty

Construction firm Balfour Beatty is proving that one company and one vision of bringing greater diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) of veterans to the construction industry can change our communities—one mission at a time.

On the $38 million Innovations Academy Modernization project, Balfour Beatty’s mission encompassed far more than delivering 62,000 square feet of state-of-the-art educational space within an accelerated five-month schedule. Balfour Beatty awarded nearly 13 percent, or $5,000,000, in contracts to the growing San Diego Disabled Veteran Business Enterprises (DVBE) community, more than doubling the school district’s 6 percent project participation goal.

Partnering to Achieve Mutual Success

To achieve such a dynamic DVBE participation on the Innovations Academy Modernization project, Balfour Beatty leveraged a multi-phase strategy that began with developing targeted bid packages during preconstruction.

On all projects, the company invests time ensuring DVBEs understand the full scope, which in turn positions them to create best-value bids. On many occasions, DVBEs contract as second-tier trade partners, so it is critical to establish clear participation goals for the entire supply chain.

Over the last five years, Balfour Beatty has partnered with DVBE IO Environmental on five projects, developing a relationship of mutual trust and respect.

“Operationally, we’ve had a fantastic experience working Balfour Beatty’s estimating and project management teams,” says Mike Bilodeau, president of IO Environmental, who served in the Coast Guard and was also an environmental specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “As a DVBE partner for Balfour Beatty on San Diego Unified School District projects, we feel like we’re actually part of a team instead of just another subcontractor. They have been incredibly supportive of our small business needs, especially with new contracting mechanisms that require complex paperwork.”

As the former owner of a tilt-up concrete company, senior viceThe inside of the Innovations Academy with an open staircase and visiting room downstairs president and one of Balfour Beatty’s California education market leads, Tim Berry recognizes the unique challenges small businesses face. Across the industry, contractors operate on consistently thin margins. For small businesses, many of which are family-owned operating on low reserves, maintaining a consistent cash flow can be just as critical to success as profit. Balfour Beatty minimizes risk by promptly processing change orders and assisting with the submission of accurate and timely pay applications.

“Getting to know Balfour Beatty’s systems and procedures has really helped us become more efficient—not only for production but also for our end customers,” says Dan Parker, U.S. Air Force veteran and operations manager, IO Environmental.

Aligning Forces

As an owner that places tremendous value on the inclusion of emerging business enterprises (EBE), the San Diego Unified School District has repeatedly entrusted its capital construction projects to Balfour Beatty—a people-first contractor that shares its commitment to creating workplaces in which diverse backgrounds, perspectives and talents contribute to shared success. Over the past five years, Balfour Beatty has completed five projects for the school district and currently has six under construction.

Across all projects, San Diego Unified School District’s mandatory EBE participation goal is 50 percent, which includes 5 percent for DVBEs—statistics that vastly exceed that of most public and private owners. But Balfour Beatty’s San Diego-based Minority Business Development Specialist Annie Del Rio predicts that such goals will become standard in the future, thanks to expanding DE&I workforce initiatives.

“I believe we’re ahead of the curve,” praises Del Rio of Balfour Beatty’s DE&I efforts. “In working with the federal government, we are challenged to target nearly 70 percent participation.”

Advancing the Cause of Veteran Inclusion

Across its U.S. operations, Balfour Beatty has taken actionable steps to advance the inclusion of veterans. From visiting military bases to collaborating with the Veterans Administration Transition Assistance Program and recruitment firms that specialize in placing veterans, Balfour Beatty recognizes the critical role veterans will play in shaping the future of an industry facing an unprecedented labor shortage.

“Our industry is starving for leaders,” says Jordan Webster, U.S.full size basketball court inside the innovations academy Army combat medic veteran and Balfour Beatty’s Dallas-based safety health & environment director. “The military provides a continuous source of disciplined, committed professionals with the ability to quickly adapt and perform at high levels in the positions we need to fill.”

In California, Balfour Beatty’s outreach efforts are also focused on removing barriers some firms face to procuring work, including achieving state certification as a Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB) or DVBE and meeting prequalification standards.

The construction company’s momentum within the DVBE community reflects the company’s passionate and sustained commitment to expanding DE&I efforts. As contractors reimagine partnership models with project stakeholders and their communities, Balfour Beatty will continue to ensure the industry provides equal opportunities for every person who desires to play a role in building its bright future.

 

Soldier Earns PhD in Astrophysics, Sets Sights on Space

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Army Spc. Immanuel Gitamo, an Air Defense Battle Management System Operator, with combat team

Army Spc. Immanuel Gitamo, an Air Defense Battle Management System Operator assigned to 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., hopes to soon change the way humans travel to outer space.

But Spc. Gitamo, a native of Nairobi, Kenya, had myriad obstacles to overcome before he would earn a doctorate in astrophysics and set his sights from below the atmosphere to above it.

He grew up with his brother as an orphan in Nairobi, Kenya. “Me and my brother were just found. Our biological parents just left us on the road. You know what I mean, they just left us. Therefore, I don’t know my real father and mother.”

A local couple eventually found him and his brother and took on the responsibility of adopting and raising him. His parents wanted to send him to school, but public education in Nairobi isn’t free, and they struggled financially. Gitamo didn’t even own a pair of shoes until he was fourteen years old.

The teachers at his local school were charitable and let him attend despite not being able to pay for it. “They just let me go to school,” he said. “It was like a miracle,” To show his gratitude, Gitamo volunteered and helped out around the school.

Gitamo’s interest in space and astrophysics began at an early age. He describes outer space as something beautiful. After turning nineteen in 2006, Gitamo immigrated to the United States to continue pursuing his passion and education.

He enrolled in college at the California Institute of Technology. Hard work earned him a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics engineering, the first step in achieving his academic goals. Next, he worked even harder and earned himself a master’s degree in nuclear physics.

Gitamo then set his sights on a PhD in astrophysics, which required him to write a dissertation. He chose to explore the invention of a formula for an emerging method of getting humans into outer space.

“My dissertation was about electric propulsion. That’s why I joined the Army. I was doing my dissertation for my PhD, and I needed to be able to defend it. I was creating an electric engine propulsion for spacecraft. In order to get to know how electric propellant works, I needed to know how solid propellant works. That’s what the Army uses to eject missiles, so I joined the Army,” said Gitamo.

Gitamo’s first duty station was in the Republic of Korea as a member of Echo Battery, 6-52 Air and Missile Defense Battalion. While stationed overseas, he was given an opportunity to learn what he needed for his dissertation.

He spoke with his company commander and told him why he joined the Army and his commander afforded him the time to study and learn. Gitamo worked with civilian fire support officers attached to the unit in order to learn what he could about solid propellants, which helped him defend his dissertation and ultimately earn his PhD, he said.

His next assignment was at Joint Base Lewis-McChord as a member of 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team’s Air Defense and Air Management Cell, where he currently works. The ADAM Cell manages air space while providing air defense tactics and capabilities to the brigade.

“Looking at this guy, he’s very unassuming, but when you actually get down and talk to him, you realize his brain is bigger than the room,” said Capt. Stephen Vories, Gitamo’s first-line supervisor and ADAM Cell officer. “So, it’s always an enlightening experience to just try and open that guy’s head, but be prepared because you’re probably gonna get beaten around by his intelligence.”

Vories said he always tries to find tasks that make the best use of Gitamo’s potential. Currently, Vories has him working as more of a planner for his team. At the same time, he’s still a specialist in the Army and Vories has to put him to work. “I’m trying to find the best of both worlds,” he said.

Capt. Vories described his first experience working with Spc. Gitamo:

Army Spc. Immanuel Gitamo in uniform seated at his desk looking towards the camera over his right shoulder
Army Spc. Immanuel Gitamo

“My first introduction to Spc. Gitamo when I got back from deployment was like, ‘Here’s Spc. Gitamo,’ and I was thinking, ‘Good, a new soldier,’ and I didn’t find out he actually had a PhD in astrophysics until several weeks later. And initially I just said, ‘Alright, so do you know anything about our systems that we are using here in the ADAM Cell?’ He said, ‘no,’ that he didn’t have a whole lot of understanding. So, this was kind of like an initial warning because it’s very system specific. Is this guy smart enough to really understand not just how the systems work but how they function, tactically and everything else? And within about 20 minutes of me describing everything that’s going on, he started spouting off different aviation aspects and things like that, and you’re like, ‘Alright, this guy knows what he’s talking about.’ He’s an extremely fast worker when it comes to understanding concepts, especially concepts when it comes to aviation.”

Vories also has spent a lot of time getting to know his soldier and listening to his personal story.

“Really, I’d just put it out to any leaders, the more you know about your soldiers, the more you discover their unique stories and can try and find out what motivates them and what drives them, so they can further improve themselves,” Vories said.

In 2019, Gitamo completed his PhD in astrophysics and is now working on another PhD in atomic physics. With only a few months left in the Army, he now looks to pursue a career in space.

His passion for the subject can be observed in the multiple research papers he has either written or contributed to on various topics including propulsion, classical and quantum-mechanical turbulence and even leadership.

“From Earth if you wanted to travel to Mars, it would take two and a half years, but if you use electric propulsion it will take 28 days,” Gitamo said.

Electric propulsion, his preferred method of going to space, comes with a few obstacles however. It is not a method currently used for launches from the Earth’s surface, as the thrust for such systems is too weak.

Gitamo wants to change that. He believes in its cost efficiency as well as its positive impact on the environment. He also wants to see space travel made more accessible.

“Space is for the benefit of every common man,” Gitamo said. “So many things we do now involve space. We use satellites for communication and to monitor and track things, but have we really looked at it? What are all the benefits we can get from space? Everything I do when it comes to electric propulsion, I am thinking about that person down there.”

Source: Army.Mil

Federal Tools to Help Maximize GI Bill Education Benefits

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Like any military mission, transitioning to civilian life takes research, planning and the right tools. One of the most powerful tools you have is the GI Bill. Since the Post-9/11 GI Bill was implemented in 2009, more than $111 billion in educational benefits have been provided to 2.2 million veterans and their family members.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of Education (ED) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) have highlighted some of the federal tools available to help servicemembers, veterans and military families pick the right program and make a sound plan to pay for it.

It’s important that you do your own research before using your GI Bill benefits as some schools have defrauded veterans by falsely promoting educational benefits and using deceptive marketing tactics to target servicemembers, veterans and military families. In addition, though many schools offer similar majors, some may have better reputations that make their graduates more desirable in the job market.

To maximize the career and financial payoff from your education benefits, you should find answers to questions like:

  • Which schools offer the best programs for my career track?
  • Where does my desired company or industry recruit from?
  • What if my GI Bill doesn’t cover my whole tuition?
  • How do I spot deceptive or fraudulent schools?
  • Where do I start?

If you are asking these questions, then you are in the right place and on the right track. Check out these featured tools to get the process started.

Step 1: Before you apply, use the GI Bill Comparison Tool

The VA’s GI Bill Comparison Tool provides key information for calculating your benefits. It provides a breakdown of tuition and fees, housing allowance and book stipend. This will be critical in your planning process for your family, finances and work-life balance.

It lists other important factors to consider such as school accreditation, Yellow Ribbon availability (a program that helps you pay for higher out-of-state, private school or graduate school tuition that the Post-9/11 GI Bill doesn’t cover) and even the number of students that received VA education benefits in the last calendar year.

This tool also offers insights on potentially cautionary information from student feedback about the school submitted to the VA through the GI Bill Feedback system. Check out VA’s “Know Before You Go” video to get advice from other Veterans based on their experience using the GI Bill.

Step 2: Considering a state university, private college or community college? Get more info from College Scorecard

The U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard website helps prospective students make informed postsecondary education choices. There are plenty of options to consider but, finding the school that fits your goals and aspirations is critical to your success. Make your own college wish list and compare your options with College Scorecard’s comprehensive data on colleges and universities, including costs, outcomes and more.

Key data elements featured on College Scorecard include:

  • Cost:Average annual cost for federal financial aid recipients, which is the tuition, living costs, books and fees minus the average grants and scholarships, as well as average cost by family income
  • Completion and retention:Graduation rate and the proportion of students who return after their first year
  • Debt:Typical cumulative federal debt of graduating borrowers by field of study and typical monthly payment
  • Earnings:Typical annual earnings of former students one year after graduation by field of study

Step 3. GI Bill College applications: Now how do I navigate financial aid and make a plan to pay for school?

The only way to find out how much a school will cost you is to apply, get accepted and receive a financial aid offer. (For that reason, we recommend applying to multiple schools.) Once you have your offers, you can evaluate them with the CFPB’s webtool: your financial path to graduation (Grad Path). Grad Path guides you through information that will help you answer questions like “Can I afford the loans I’ll need to finish my program?” and “Is this school worth it for me?”

Here are a few ways Grad Path can help you navigate paying for college:

Break down the financial aid offer. Grad Path explains jargon in plain language. For each type of funding, it points out money saving strategies as well as potential pitfalls. As you examine each funding source (including the GI Bill, Military Tuition Assistance and other programs like Yellow Ribbon), you will see your running total of uncovered costs.

Look at the whole picture. Students often overlook expenses, miss funding options and forget to consider the total cost of a multiyear program. Grad Path provides detailed guidance about costs and resources, plus projections about total debt and earnings at graduation, to help you determine whether you can afford a particular program, now and in the long run.

Decide whether the school is financially right for you. Understanding how a school fits into your academic goals and future job opportunities is just as important as planning how to finance your education. This tool provides key statistics to consider when determining whether a program is likely to pay off on the investment of your time, work and money, including your servicemember education benefits.

Source: consumerfinance.gov

Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation Awards $9.2 Million in Scholarships, Appoints New President and CEO

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The Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation announced it will award more than $9.2 million in academic scholarships to over 2,500 children of Marines and Navy Corpsmen for the 2021-2022 academic year. This historic announcement comes as the Scholarship Foundation appoints Ted Probert as its new President and CEO.

“I’m humbled and honored to lead the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation into its next chapter,” said Ted Probert. “For nearly 60 years, the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation has kept its promise to never leave the child of a Marine behind. I strongly support this commitment and look forward to working with this extraordinary team to broaden our reach and impact.”

Ted joined the Scholarship Foundation in 2018 as the Executive Vice President, Development. Serving in the Marine Corps Reserves for 21 years, he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2014. Ted brings over 29 years of development experience to the Scholarship Foundation, highlighted by his time at Phillips Exeter Academy as both campaign director for The Exeter Initiatives, which raised $352 million, and the Director of Institutional Advancement.

“The Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation is stronger today than at any time in its nearly 60-year history,” said Chairman of the Board and 37th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Robert B. Neller. “Ted Probert has a strong proven track record of tirelessly working to accomplish the Scholarship Foundation’s mission of helping the children of Marines and Navy Corpsmen who serve with Marines to get advanced education and training. We are excited and confident that his passion for the Scholarship Foundation, leadership, vision, and experience will allow the Scholarship Foundation to continue to grow and have an even greater impact for the Marine and Navy families we serve.”

A financial need-based scholarship, the Scholarship Foundation’s recipients reflect the diversity characteristic of the United States Marine Corps: students from all walks of life who are destined for leadership and service in a variety of professional fields. Scholarship Foundation recipients are top-tier scholars with a 90% overall graduation rate, well above national performance averages. Notably, 40% of recipients are first-generation college students and 45% pursue STEM degrees.

Messages of gratitude have poured in from recipients who are glad to be moving forward after a challenging year. “You have allowed me to focus on the most important aspect of college, learning, without the burden of student loans,” said Jake Lane, a rising junior at the University of Michigan and son of a veteran Marine. “I am eternally grateful for your kind-hearted and generous spirit and one day hope to change someone’s life in the way you have changed mine.”

About the Scholarship Foundation: Established in 1962, the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation is the Nation’s oldest and largest provider of need-based scholarships for military children. Since its inception, the Scholarship Foundation has provided nearly 50,000 scholarships worth $155 million to the children of Marines and Navy Corpsmen. For more information on the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, please visit www.mcsf.org.

SOURCE Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation

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