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What Does 'Military Friendly' Mean?

Many news sources are reporting that the drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan has resulted in a flood of veterans headed to college. CNN reported last week that there at least 416K veterans currently enrolled in and using the GI Bill. This is not surprising considering the incredible support and benefits being offered by the VA through the Post-9/11 GI Bill. This is great news.

But, many veterans have discovered that going back to school is a bit rougher than they had anticipated and that not all schools are created equal. There are three BIG cautions veterans should be aware of before they start college.

  1. Military Friendly is not what it is chalked up to be.
  2. Most veterans need some remedial training to prepare academically for college rigor.
  3. Veterans need to have a career plan and goals before jumping in to college.
Over the next few days I will address each of these issues and provide resources and opportunities for veterans to help ensure they get the most from their GI Bill benefits.

Today's blog entry will focus on issue number one -- What does Military Friendly really mean?

In the simplest, albeit skeptical point of view, the term “Military Friendly,” is a marketing catch phrase. In fact, a recent Associated Press article by Justin Pope addressed this very issue along with the proposed legislation to  force schools that wish to participate in the GI Bill to follow veteran friendly policies.

Unfortunately for most veterans, there is no way of knowing exactly what the phrase really means. A quick study of the subject reveals that in the loosest interpretation it means that veterans are welcome and the school has programs which have been approved by the VA for using the GI Bill (and by the DoD for tuition assistance). Yep, in many cases that’s all it takes for a school to claim they are “Military Friendly.”

The fact is, for a school to be truly “Military Friendly” they need to do a lot more than that, starting with adhering to the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) Military Student Bill of Rights. But that doesn’t really go far enough either. Schools should also be open to accepting the non-traditional education sources like CLEP and DSST exams for college credit and the American Council on Education’s recommendations for college credit for military experience – applied skills, knowledge, and abilities associated with military training and education programs.

In addition, schools that wish to be military friendly should offer degrees that help veterans find gainful employment while offering the flexibility active duty, Guard and Reserve servicemembers need when it comes to deployments, op-tempo, and mobilization.

Beginning this summer schools that wish to participate in DoD’s military tuition assistance program will have to adhere to a new Memorandum of Understanding that includes set of policies which ensure that the schools are indeed friendly to military students.

So, before you enroll in a so-called "Military Friendly" school, ask them to define it.

Next topic: The Need for Remedial Support.

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