Veterans and Education: Are Our Veterans Getting the Education Benefits They Deserve?

In honor of Veterans Day and those who have served our country, we’d like to take some time to look at the educational benefits available to veterans and the men and women who currently serve. Veterans returning from military service are enrolling in college programs in record numbers, but many of our veterans are finding the college experience far less than favorable. They’ve fought for our country honorably – they shouldn’t have to fight for their education benefits too.

Let’s take a look at the education benefits available and how colleges across the nation are working to improve the services they extend to our veterans all the way from World War II to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The implementation of the new GI Bill, renamed the Post-9/11 GI Bill, helps to connect American’s veterans to higher education by significantly expanding the us veterans education benefits available to veterans. The new GI Bill helps veterans to earn their degree by paying the full tuition and fees at over 4,000 colleges and providing a monthly living and book and supply stipend.

But many still find that the government’s education programs for service members are inadequate. A loophole in the Bill can often make student loans non-deferrable. Loans can be deferred during times of military service, but when student loans are held by multiple banks, the deferment process can often be undermined. Roy Brown and Eli Williamson, two Army vets, decided to help. Brown and Williamson created Leave No Veteran Behind, a non-profit organization that helps struggling veterans manage their debt and pay off their loans. Loans that veterans take out before entering the service and classes that are interrupted by deployment, for example, are not covered under the GI Bill. The pair recently helped 26-year Air Force veteran Doris Barren, now 51, pay off her entire $5,000 student loan. As they see it, it’s one down, one million to go.

The “culture shock” of reclamation to the civilian world of college campuses is also difficult for veterans, a recent study from the National Survey of Student Engagement found. The transition from military to civilian life is unquestionably hard and the reported lack of support on college campuses can only make the transition more difficult. Of 11,000 veterans surveyed, many reported feeling “disconnected” from the school they attend. The report suggests that college campuses and administration seek out ways of more effectively engaging veterans and providing them with “supportive environments that promote success.” Brian Hawthorne, a student veteran who served twice in Iraq with the Army and is now a graduate student at George Washington University urges educators to understand the differences between veterans and traditional college students, and to provide student veterans with the network of support systems they need.

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