Under the right circumstances, GI Bill benefits can be transferred to eligible spouses and children. Yet the vast majority of universities have yet to catch on to the fact that not everyone who uses these benefits has served. And while they advertise they are “military-friendly,” what they really mean is they are veteran-friendly. Spouses and dependent 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 great, considering that the annual tuition of about $35,000 is covered under the program. However, when I sit at the Veterans Planning Committee meetings, I see a missed opportunity as there is often little or no mention of family members.
Don’t get me wrong – as a spouse, I do not want to take away from my veteran’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. Our university -- and several others -- have 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, less military families are planning to stay for retirement. Even more are planning to start or finish their 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 (service members, veterans and dependents) will extend the outreach, subsequently attracting and retaining more of this demographic. Additionally, some veterans would rather transfer their 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.
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