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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 vice 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.
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. 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.
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:
“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.”
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.
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.
For many enlisted veterans, college is a critical next step in acclimating to civilian life and landing a fulfilling career after transitioning from military service. While this is an exciting new chapter, many find the adjustment to college to be a challenging experience, especially without the support and camaraderie they had while in the service.
If you’re planning to earn your undergraduate degree after separating, or are already enrolled and feel like you could use some guidance, Warrior-Scholar Project can help!
Warrior-Scholar Project (WSP) is a national nonprofit that empowers enlisted veterans and service members to excel at four-year universities through immersive one- to two-week academic boot camps at some of the nation’s top colleges and universities — including Yale, Harvard, Notre Dame, University of Southern California and Texas A&M, among many others. The nonprofit also offers workshops tailored to address the unique needs of veterans enrolled in community college. Offered at no cost to veterans and enlisted active-duty service members, the programs are designed to introduce veterans to college-level material and an academic environment while learning strategies to become better students.
During a WSP academic boot camp, participants are taught by university faculty and graduate students at the host institution with support from highly-successful student veteran fellows who have completed the program. Students are introduced to analytic reading, writing and other academic and everyday skills crucial to success in higher education. The curriculum also helps veterans adjust to life on campus and learn how to effectively engage in the classroom. Additionally, participants have the opportunity to learn about the many challenges student veterans experience during their transition to college, including the complex university application and admission process.
The introductory academic experience has a lasting impact: Ninety-nine percent of 2020 WSP participants recommend WSP to fellow veterans, and 97 percent indicated that they are more confident they will succeed in college.
“The opportunity at Yale University was life-changing as it provided me with a newfound confidence in my academic future. Learning various tools such as note-taking, essay writing and breaking problems into steps helped ease my mind that the transition from Warrior to Scholar will now be a whole lot easier. Being at Yale and being surrounded by peers and fellows who currently attend prestigious universities also helped me realize that the same future isn’t impossible for me.” — James Ines, WSP-Yale University alumnus
Warrior-Scholar Project is now accepting applications for its summer 2021 academic boot camps happening between June 6 and August 13. With partners at colleges nationwide, student veterans have the unique opportunity to learn from esteemed university faculty in humanities, STEM and/or business curriculum focuses. Additionally, Warrior-Scholar Project will host its first-ever All-Woman Cohort, a one-week humanities course, at Yale University this summer in an effort to create more female and feminine spaces that are inclusive and empowering for women veterans.
Veterans looking to jumpstart their education can learn more about the program and apply at warrior-scholar.org. To ensure you have the most accurate programming information, please visit the website for up-to-date academic boot camp schedules.
Warrior-Scholar Project’s academic boot camps are exclusively for current and former enlisted service members who are intent on pursuing higher education. Typically, student veterans enjoy the full college experience from staying in dorms to eating in the dining hall to studying in the historic libraries of the host institution. With the exception of travel (if applicable), these courses are offered at no cost to the student veteran participant. WSP intends to return to on-site programming for summer 2021. However, due to pandemic-related uncertainties, WSP is unable to guarantee that all programming will be offered on site. Additionally, WSP will offer a virtual programming component. In the event that on site programming is deemed unsafe, WSP will keep applicants informed if those programs are converted to the virtual platform.
Warrior-Scholar Project has partnered with the following universities for 2021:
Yale University — Humanities and STEM course
Georgetown University — Humanities course
University of Arizona — Humanities and STEM course
Princeton University — Humanities and STEM course
University of Pennsylvania — Humanities course
University of Notre Dame — Humanities and Business course
Texas A&M — Humanities and STEM course
Pomona College — Humanities course
Columbia University — Humanities and STEM course
Harvard University — Humanities course
University of Michigan — Humanities course
Massachusetts Institute of Technology — STEM course
Syracuse University — Humanities course
Williams College — Humanities course
Cornell University— Humanities course
University of Southern California — Humanities and Business course
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – Humanities course
Amherst College — Humanities course
University of Chicago — Humanities course
California Institute of Technology — STEM course
University of California, Irvine — Humanities course
To view the most up-to-date programming schedule, for more information, and to apply, visit warrior-scholar.org.
By Kurt Ballash, owner of Ballash Woodworks
Military veterans are a special talent pool because we learn valuable skills that set us apart from other candidates in the workforce.
During the pandemic, the veteran unemployment rate has hovered around 5%, but there are boundless opportunities, programs and outreach groups that can help veterans hone their skills, find a job or identify an upskilling program that is best for them.
Fayetteville, N.C., which is home to the largest U.S. Army base and Army Special Operations Command, has more than 7,000 veterans entering the workforce each year. One area of opportunity for employment across the country is skilled trade jobs. A recent study found that nearly 400,000 skilled trade jobs had posted from the pandemic’s onset in March 2020 through February 2021. As veterans consider this pathway after service, they should leverage workshops, apprenticeship programs and military-friendly programs at local colleges and universities to identify the trade that is right for them.
Participate in a Workshop
Studies have shown that creative hobbies, such as woodworking, can be an effective avenue to help veterans cope with the battle scars associated with years of combat service and to help overcome PTSD. A creative workshop is also a great starting point in identifying your strengths because it’s a short-term commitment; it’s inexpensive, and it’s a fun way to learn something new.
These are a few of the reasons why I started hosting workshops at Ballash Woodworks. We’re a Fayetteville-based small business that specializes in handcrafted wood furniture, and we’ve also become a place for veterans and their families to come together for support and healing. Our workshops teach the art of woodworking, which brings veterans together through a shared trade.
Consider an Apprenticeship Program
While workshops are a great way to test the waters with new skills, apprenticeship programs take this a step further. Companies partner with workforce development organizations and education institutions to create structured programs that provide jobs to trainees as they perfect their skills over a 3- or 4-year time frame. Glassdoor says that 91% of apprentices are hired full-time at the end of their programs.
ApprenticeshipNC is busier than ever during the pandemic, as military personnel are pursuing 91E Allied Trade Specialist certifications. With this certification, apprentices can master the art of welding, machining, carpentry or one of hundreds of other trades. In North Carolina, the average program pays about $36,100 annually. The Department of Labor also approved a woodwork manufacturing specialist apprenticeship program, so industry apprentices who complete the program can receive a national, industry-recognized credential as a registered woodwork manufacturing specialist.
Ask Your Local Colleges About Their Military Programs
One of the reasons why veterans stay in Fayetteville after service is because of the access we have to military-friendly education programs and support networks with our neighbors and veterans. Victory, a media company that connects the military community to civilian employment, releases an annual ranking of the country’s most military-friendly education institutions based on factors such as student retention, graduation, job placement, loan repayment, loan default rates and persistence to advanced degrees. It ranked Fayetteville Technical Community College in the Top 10. Have a look at programs near you. You might qualify for scholarships and have access to resources that help ease the transition from military life to campus life.
Transitioning out of the military can be a tough road, but finding a new career that will bring you joy doesn’t have to be. Opportunities at local colleges and the experts behind apprenticeship programs can help guide the way to your next path and arm you with the training needed to get there.
Woodworking is in the Ballash blood. As a child, Kurt spent afternoons in the shop where his father and grandfather crafted custom cabinets, and Kurt developed an unspoken love for the process of turning lumber into one-of-a-kind creations. When Kurt returned to Fayetteville, N.C. after serving his country, he decided to share his love for woodworking with the community by opening up Ballash Woodworks. Veteran entrepreneurs are strong contributors to the growing Cumberland County workforce, and he immediately felt a kinship to the other veterans in the region by sharing his passion with others.
If you’ve thought about going to college but didn’t know if you could afford it, then the Military Tuition Assistance program may be just the benefit you need.
The program is available to active duty, National Guard and Reserve Component service members. While the decision to pursue a degree may be a difficult one personally, TA can lessen your financial concerns considerably, since it now pays up to 100 percent of tuition expenses for semester hours costing $250 or less.
Courses and degree programs may be academic or technical and can be taken from two- or four-year institutions on-installation, off-installation or by distance learning. An accrediting body recognized by the Department of Education must accredit the institution. Your service branch pays your tuition directly to the school. Service members need to first check with an education counselor for the specifics involving TA by visiting their local installation education office or by going online to a virtual education center. Tuition assistance may be used for the following programs:
All four service branches and the U.S. Coast Guard offer financial assistance for voluntary, off-duty education programs in support of service members’ personal and professional goals. The program is open to officers, warrant officers and enlisted active-duty service personnel. In addition, members of the National Guard and Reserve Components may be eligible for TA based on their service eligibility. To be eligible for TA, an enlisted service member must have enough time remaining in service to complete the course for which he or she has applied. After the completion of a course, an officer using TA must fulfill a service obligation that runs parallel with – not in addition to – any existing service obligation.
Coverage Amounts and Monetary Limits
The Tuition Assistance Program may fund up to 100 percent of your college tuition and certain fees with the following limits:
Not to exceed $250 per semester credit hour or $166 per quarter credit hour
Not to exceed $4,500 per fiscal year, Oct. 1 through Sept. 30
Tuition Assistance Versus the Department of Veterans Affairs Education Benefits
While the TA program is offered by the services, the Department of Veterans Affairs administers a variety of education benefit programs. Some of the VA programs, such as the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2008, also known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill, can work well with the TA program, as it can supplement fees not covered by TA. In addition, the Post-9/11 GI Bill® funds are available to you after you leave the military. If your service ended before Jan. 1, 2013, you have 15 years to use this benefit. If your service ended on or after Jan. 1, 2013, the benefit won’t expire. The TA program is a benefit that is available only while you’re in the service.
Tuition Assistance Benefits and Restrictions
Tuition assistance will cover the following expenses:
Course-specific fees, such as laboratory fee or online course fee
NOTE: All fees must directly relate to the specific course enrollment of the service member.
Tuition assistance will not cover the following expenses:
Books and course materials
Flight training fees
Taking the same course twice
Continuing education units, or CEUs
Keep in mind that TA will not fund your college courses, and you will have to reimburse any funds already paid, if any of the following situations occur:
Leaving the service before the course ends
Quitting the course for reasons other than personal illness, military transfer or mission requirements
Failing the course
Each military branch has its own TA application form and procedures. To find out how to get started, visit your local installation education center, go online to a virtual education center or click on the following links for each service branch:
Prior to your course enrollment, you may be required to develop an education plan or complete TA orientation. Keep the following important information in mind when you apply:
Military tuition assistance may only be used to pursue degree programs at colleges and universities in the United States that are regionally or nationally accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the U.S Department of Education. A quick way to check the accreditation of a school is by visiting the Department of Education.
Your service’s education center must approve your military tuition assistance before you enroll in a course.
The Top-up program allows funds from the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty or the Post-9/11 GI Bill – to be used for tuition and fees for high-cost courses that are not fully covered by TA funds.
To use Top-up, your service branch must approve you for TA. You also must be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill or the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty.
First apply for TA in accordance with procedures of your service branch. After you have applied for TA, you will need to complete VA Form 22-1990 to apply for Department of Veterans Affairs education benefits. The form is available online from the VA. Specify “Top-up” on the application and mail it to one of the education processing offices listed on the form.
Other Supplemental Funding Possibilities
Aside from using the MGIB-AD or Post-9/11 GI Bill for items, such as tuition and fees not covered by TA, there are other funding opportunities available to service members, including the following:
Federal and state financial aid. The federal government provides $150 billion per year in grants, work-study programs and federal loans to college students. The aid comes in several forms, including need-based programs, such as Pell grants, subsidized Stafford Loans, Supplemental Educational Opportunity grants and federal work/study programs. You can also get low-interest loans through the federal government. Visit Federal Student Aid to find out more or complete an online application for FAFSA at no cost to you.
Perhaps you’ve decided to pick up some valuable knowledge. Maybe you’re leaving the service and need to re-create yourself.
No matter why you’re pursuing higher education, you need a game plan — a course of action to get you from today to that moment you walk across the stage holding your diploma in hand. Here are some practical steps to take.
Step one: Contact the Voluntary Education Program
Before you get buried in college brochures, speak with an education professional through the Voluntary Education Program.
An education professional can help guide you through the planning and paying for your education, as well as eligibility requirements. Find the right contact information below depending on your service:
Army Continuing Education: 888-276-9472
Marine Corps Voluntary Education Program: 703-784-9550
Deciding which college to attend is much easier when you have the right information. As a service member, you have access to useful resources such as the College Navigator, a free online tool from the National Center for Education Statistics. The College Navigator provides information on more than 7,000 postsecondary education institutions, so you can compare schools’ tuition, financial aid, accreditation information, graduation and retention rates and more.
TA DECIDE is another helpful tool for comparing schools and programs. Designed for participants of the Department of Defense Military Tuition Assistance Program, it provides education costs and outcomes, as well as information about other military students who are participating in the tuition assistance program.
Step three: Take your college admission exams
Get ready for some studying even before college begins. Most colleges and universities require admission exams with your application, such as the SAT Reasoning Test, the SAT Subject Tests, the American College Testing (ACT) Readiness Assessment, Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) and the General Education Development Test.
The Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support, or DANTES, can help you prepare for enrollment and cover the cost of some academic tests. DANTES also offers college prep resources that can help you prepare for these admission exams, sharpen study skills, and identify your interests and aptitudes in choosing an area of study or career path. Visit DANTES to learn more or to contact a counselor.
Step four: Convert your military experience to college credit
The tests you endured in combat can count just as much as quizzes in a classroom. The Joint Services Transcript converts your military experience into civilian college credit, providing documented evidence to colleges and universities of professional military education, training and occupation experiences. The Joint Services Transcript is a collaborative transcript program that replaces previous transcript programs, making it easier for colleges to read and recommend credits.
Step five: Understand your financing options
As a service member, you have several options that can help fund your schooling — so that you can concentrate on studying, not paying the bills. The education consultants at Military OneSource can help you identify grants and other kinds of assistance for which you are eligible. Here is a sampling of programs and loans available:
Military tuition assistance — provided by each service branch, offering up to $4,500 of assistance per fiscal year
Montgomery GI Bill® and MGIB Tuition Top-Up Programs — funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs
Tax credits and deductions — such as the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit
Federal grants and loans — such as the Federal Pell Grant, Federal Perkins Loans, Stafford Loans and Federal Supplemental Education Opportunities Grant.
You’re just a few steps away from achieving your education goals. Remember to reach out to your network of support and contact an education professional through your service’s Voluntary Education Program.