GI Bill benefits can now be transferred to eligible spouses and children. Yet the vast majority of universities are yet to catch on to the fact that not everyone who uses benefits has served. They are veteran-friendly, not military friendly. Spouses and children also need information and support services while in school.
I work for a major private university, which is a Yellow Ribbon Program participant with no cap on the dollar amount or number of eligible servicemembers, veterans, and dependents. I think that’s pretty cool, considering that the annual tuition of almost fulltime tuition of about 35k is covered under the program. However, when I sit at the Veterans Planning Committee meetings which I am a member of, I observe a missed opportunity as there is often little or no mention of family members.
While I’m sure to bring it up as often as I can, I’m often left feeling like I could have done a better job at getting the message across to the committee… Although I am just getting warmed up and will continue to speak up as long as anyone will listen, or until there are some valuable changes. Don’t get me wrong – as a spouse, I do not want to take away from my husband’s service, but at the same time, I don’t want to be left out of anything that has even the slightest potential to benefit me and my family. Now granted I must say that our university has gone through a tremendous amount of outreach and programming to ensure that all military students feel welcome.
Here’s what institutions are missing
Military careers don’t last forever! With the current state of the economy and direction of the job market, more military families are starting to/encouraged to plan for retirement early. Even more are exploring the option of getting, or finishing up that degree or vocational training, to increase marketability. According to the Department of Defense:
84% of military spouses have some college
25% have a Bachelor’s degree
10% have an advanced degree
Therefore, having a more inclusive approach to military students (servicemembers, veterans, and dependents) will extend the outreach, subsequently attracting and retaining more of this demographic. Additionally, some veterans would rather transfer Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to eligible dependents, than use it themselves.
And so for all my fellow spouses out there, attending, working for, or affiliated with colleges and universities, please be sure to let your voice be heard with regards to issues of benefits and programming on campus and online. After all, it is no joke supporting our soldiers, and any support we can get to make our “home front mission” easier is always highly appreciated.
Patience Ajoff is an Army Active Guard and Reserve (AGR) spouse who now works for a top tier private university thanks to a referral from the Employment Readiness Manager at Fort Dix, NJ. She is presently pursuing a graduate certificate in Higher Education Administration at Drexel University online.