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Everything You Need to Know About Online Universities & The Military

by Theresa Donahue on February 1, 2010

One reason why many individuals join the military is for educational benefits. All branches of the military do not hesitate to mention education as a benefit, as this is part and parcel of recruitment and retention. Military training is just one facet in this story, however, as active military personnel, veterans and their families also have opportunities to extend their learning to college courses. Online universities and colleges in particular are reaching out to the military to offer opportunities to learn while ‘on the job’ so veterans will have a better opportunity for higher-paying jobs upon retirement.

The G.I. Bill, which was first enacted in 1944, provided college or vocation education for returning World War II veterans, or G.I.s, as well as one year of unemployment compensation. This bill enabled many returning servicemen to become competitive in the job market after serving military duty and continues today under slightly different conditions. Additionally, the Department of Defense monitors and has subsidized college tuition for active-duty service members since 1947.

Sometimes military offices do not move as fast as for-profit online universities and colleges, however. The latter institutions are competitive in enrollment, and the numbers of military personnel who have enrolled in online courses over the past few years has increased dramatically. While enrollment is increasing, concerns over the viability of online degrees has become an issue.

Online colleges and universities offer degrees to students who need flexible hours, and the online format suits military students who move frequently. Some online colleges allow transfer credits from other colleges, and enrollment can occur at any time. Plus, many online universities offer perks to military students, such as free laptops and textbooks.

At the moment, the downside to online education falls in the laps of active military personnel and veterans who want to pursue an online degree. Prospective students must take on the responsibility to learn more about the online college to discover whether that school is accredited, whether credits are transferable to other reputable colleges and if the college degree is respected in the business community.

On the upside, many online universities have gained footholds in business communities, as their degrees have become more well-respected. Don’t forget conventional universities and colleges, as they now offer many online degree programs and individual courses. These colleges often are more well-respected in the business community. Additionally, the Defense Department plans to subject online programs to review by the American Council on Education within the next year (see links below). This scrutiny will allow recruits and veterans to pick and choose among for-profit online educational degrees with confidence.

In the meantime, we offer a number of resources that can enable anyone to learn more about online universities and the military, both active personnel and veterans:

The GI Bill:

In August 2009, recipients were eligible for greatly expanded benefits, or the full cost of any public college in their state. The new bill also provides a housing allowance and $1,000 a year stipend for books, among other benefits. But, there are difficulties with this new bill. The following sites may help clarify any issues you may have with this program:

  • VA GI Bill Information: This is the official Department of Veterans Affairs Web site on the new Post-9/11 GI Bill. The site lists benefit programs, tools and information as well as relevant news.
  • NewGIBill.org: This entire site is dedicated to explanations about the Post-9/11 GI Bill, including news and benefit information.
  • New GI Bill Overview: This page on Military.com defines the details benefits of the new GI Bill.

Other VA Education Monies

  • Benefit Comparison Chart: Learn about the differences among the Post-9/11 GI Bill (defined above), the Montgomery GI Bill (Active Duty), the Montgomery GI Bill (Reserves) and REAP, all defined below…
  • Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty: The MGIB program provides up to 36 months of education benefits. This benefit may be used for degree and certificate programs, flight training, apprenticeship/on-the-job training and correspondence courses. Remedial, deficiency, and refresher courses may be approved under certain circumstances. Generally, benefits are payable for 10 years following your release from active duty. This program is also commonly known as Chapter 30.
  • Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserve: The MGIB-SR program may be available to you if you are a member of the Selected Reserve. The Selected Reserve includes the Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve and Coast Guard Reserve, and the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard. This benefit may be used for degree and certificate programs, flight training, apprenticeship/on-the-job training and correspondence courses.
  • Reserve Educational Assistance Program: REAP was established as a part of the Ronald W. Reagan National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005. It is a new Department of Defense education benefit program designed to provide educational assistance to members of the Reserve components called or ordered to active duty in response to a war or national emergency (contingency operation) as declared by the President or Congress.
  • Veterans Educational Assistance Program: VEAP is available if you first entered active duty between January 1, 1977 and June 30, 1985 and you elected to make contributions from your military pay to participate in this education benefit program. Your contributions are matched on a $2 for $1 basis by the Government. This benefit may be used for degree and certificate programs, flight training, apprenticeship/on-the-job training and correspondence courses.

Other VA Education Benefits

  • Educational and Vocational Counseling Services: Free educational and vocational counseling (Chapter 36) services are provided by the VA to transitioning service members. Visit this link to learn more.
  • Student Work-Study Allowance Program: If you’re a full-time or 3/4-time student in a college degree program, or a vocational or professional program, you can “earn while you learn” with a VA work-study allowance.
  • Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program: The DEA provides education and training opportunities to eligible dependents of certain veterans. The program offers up to 45 months of education benefits. These benefits may be used for degree and certificate programs, apprenticeship, and on-the-job training.

Online College Accreditation

  • Database of Accredited Post-secondary Institutions and Programs: Use this search engine to discover information about a college or university accreditation. Each of the post-secondary educational institutions and programs contained within the database is, or was, accredited by an accrediting agency or state approval agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as a “reliable authority as to the quality of post-secondary education” within the meaning of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA).
  • ED.gov: This government site provides lists of regional and national accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as reliable authorities concerning the quality of education or training offered by the institutions of higher education or higher education programs they accredit.

Online Education Searches

  • eLearners: This site breaks online education down into degrees, programs, courses and colleges. They offer information only on accredited resources.
  • Online Education Database: OEDb is the original source of online accredited programs. Unlike many other online education directories, their database only lists accredited online colleges so you can be sure that these degrees will be respected by potential employers. Use their rankings to find the best online program for you.

Other Sites of Interest

  • American Council on Education: The American Council on Education (ACE) is the only higher education organization that represents presidents and chancellors of all types of U.S. accredited, degree-granting institutions. Their mission is to provide leadership and a unifying voice on key higher education issues and to influence public policy through advocacy, research, and program initiatives.
  • The Department of Defense Education Activity: DoDEA is a field activity of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. It is headed by a director who oversees all agency functions from DoDEA headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. This site is concerned with DoDEA activities, news and data.
  • Training, Education, and Career Transitions for Active Duty Military Personnel: USA.gov offers a page filled with links for career transition, training and education for active and veteran service members and their families.
  • Tutor.com Military: Marine Corps and Army families have had access to this program for more than a year. Seeing the value, Defense Department officials decided to expand the this free, online tutoring service for all service members and their families.
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