Tagged: military education benefits

Student Loan Refunds for Troops and Veterans

Posted by Debi Teter
Sallie Mae is sending out nearly 80,000 checks to service members and veterans who took out student loans. According to a statement from Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn, $60 million in refunds are part of a settlement over inflated interest rates. The settlement came after the federal government filed suit against Navient Corp., formerly part of Sallie Mae, for violating the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which caps student loan interest rates for servicemembers at 6 percent. The lawsuit claimed that violations went back to 2005. Compensation will range from $10 to more than $100,000, with the average check being about $771. The size of the check depends on how long and by how much the interest rate exceeded 6 percent. The settlement includes Navient’s full range of student loans, including private loans, direct Department of Education loans, and loans that originated under the Federal Family Education Loan Program. Navient also agreed to request the three major credit bureaus delete negative credit history entries connected to the overcharges. If you are wondering about your eligibility for compensation, call (855) 382-6421.

Use Your Summer Wisely

Posted by Kelli McKinney
summer-prep-for-fall-educationIt’s May. You’ve just enrolled in an online degree program starting in August. Now what? Before you grab the sunscreen and hit the pool, you may want to make sure you’re ready to hit the books this fall.  Your college or department will probably have some specific instructions on getting up to speed. In the meantime, here are some tips you can use this summer to make sure your adjustment to online education is as smooth as soft serve. Take time with the system When it’s available, spend some prep time navigating through your class environment. You don’t have to do this all at once. You’ll want to make sure that you know how to do these things before your first class:
  • Access course materials: syllabus, videos, study guides, reading materials
  • Download and print any reference material
  • View, download, and turn in any assignment
  • Take a test
  • Get feedback from a classmate/give feedback to a classmate
  • Ask a question of the class or the instructor
  • Find an advisor
  • Create or join a study group
  • Get system support/technical help
  • Contact your instructor
  • View your grades
Check on financial aid If you’re receiving military education benefits, grants, scholarships or loans, contact your school’s financial aid office regularly to make sure everything is in order.  Find out:
  • How and when tuition is paid
  • When/if loans are due (when to start paying back)
  • If other fees or books are covered
  • Who to talk to if there’s a problem
  • How to check your account balance
  Make time for the work You’re ready for the first day of class, but are you ready for the next four months of classwork?  Go ahead and block off some time daily or weekly for completing homework and preparing for tests.  A good rule of thumb is to plan three hours of homework each week for every one hour of credit. So for a three-credit course, you’ll want to set aside nine hours of study time. If you have a job or family, start talking with them now about the kind of time commitment you’ll need to make in the fall to be successful in the class.  And make sure you’re designating plenty of time for them too. Watch the syllabus When your syllabus is posted, read it. All of it. Mark test dates and homework dates on your calendar. If there are books to download or purchase, the key to saving money is buying them early online. There are bargain booksellers online that may be less expensive than the virtual school bookstore – but again, the key to savings is buying early. Protect your computer You’re going to send and receive a lot of files, so you need to make sure you have a security program in place. If you’ve already got one, keep it updated and running.  Not only could a virus knock you out of commission and make you miss an important due date, identity theft is just plain horrible. Don’t risk it – use a good security program. Your school may even have a few that they recommend. Make a back-up plan Even the most reliable internet connections can experience outages. But when entire degree programs are conducted via the internet, instructors expect you to have connectivity and they don’t usually take “I couldn’t log in” as an excuse for missing assignment due dates.  Have a back-up study location – a local library, coffee shop, deli, or school, for example – just in case your provider fails. With a little preparation, you’ll be ready to make a big splash not just at the pool this summer, but also in your classroom this fall.   #militaryeducationbenefits #militarystudents #onlineeducation

Military Students Can Protect Their Online Education Investment with SOC

Posted by Debi Teter
militaryauthority.com_SOC-protects-online-education-investmentWhen it comes to earning a college degree, military education benefits are only one part of the equation.  Yes, there’s a significant financial investment involved, and military tuition assistance will pay for classes online.  But the military student also puts in the time and effort to complete coursework, study and take exams. After all that effort, imagine how disappointing it would be to decide to transfer into a master’s program and learn that your credits won’t transfer. Bottom line:  College credits do not automatically transfer from program to program. This doesn’t mean that you have to decide your ultimate career or education destination this second and never change courses, ever.  It means you need to choose your online school wisely. For military students, an organization called Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) can help. For those of you who’ve never heard of it, SOC is a network of colleges that agree to accept transfers from among their membership.  There’s a network for each branch of the military. What this means is that if you start your online degree program at a SOC school, and decide to transfer to a different SOC school, your coursework will transfer.  Before transferring, though, you should check with an advisor and your installation education office to find out if there will be any additional coursework requirements to complete your program. You can find out more about SOC here. The military provides tremendous education benefits – truly above and beyond anything most corporations might pay for their employees.  But it’s important to remember: Just because military education benefits covered the cost of your classes, your credits don’t automatically transfer to any school you want to attend.  The military doesn’t require you to attend SOC schools – but if you want the flexibility to transfer to another program without losing your credit hours, you’d be wise to stick to schools within the SOC network. If you want to find out how to get started, or to check and see if a school you’re already attending is a SOC member, contact your Educational Services Office to learn more.  You can also visit the SOC web site to research member programs.

Yellow Ribbon Education Program

Posted by Debi Teter
Yellow-Ribbon-Program-for-servicemembersThe Yellow Ribbon Program is a voluntary fund-matching partnership between degree-granting universities and colleges and the VA in which they fund out-of-pocket tuition and fees that might not be covered by the Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit. The Post 9/11 GI Bill tuition benefit will pay up to 100 percent of public in-state tuition, but it only covers up to $17,500 for private colleges and universities. Actual tuition and fee expenses can exceed these amounts. The Yellow Ribbon program is designed to help students avoid up to 100 percent of their out-of-pocket tuition and fees at these institutions. Students who attend a GI Bill Approved and Yellow Ribbon participating college or university qualify if they are eligible for the maximum benefit rate under the Post-9/11 GI Bill and are not on active duty. Schools must agree to meet certain criteria when they participate in the Yellow Ribbon program. They pay Yellow Ribbon benefits on a first-come, first-served basis and have a maximum number of individuals they can pay each year. Also note that schools must certify student enrollment and Yellow Ribbon program information to the VA. Yellow Ribbon benefits are not available for training or education pursued on or before 8/1/09. To find a participating Yellow Ribbon school, visit the  official GI Bill website from the VA.   Image credit: Lipscomb #yellowribbonprogram #militaryeducation #veteransbenefits

A Service Member’s Prep Work for College

Posted by Debi Teter
Back to schoolHas it been a few years since you’ve tackled an algebra or geometry problem? How about chemistry? When was the last time you wrote an essay? For veterans and transitioning service members who are considering college, the thought of facing any of these subjects might be enough to dissuade them from pursuing their education. That’s why the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Education have a number of college preparation resources in place. Because for most vets and service members, it’s not a matter of being incapable of handling these academic adventures – it’s just a matter of getting a little practice. Here is an overview of five programs designed to help vets and service members get their skills assessed, practice and prepare for their college education. The Online Academic Skills Course The Department of Defense’s Online Academic Skills Course gives all service members, regardless of activation status, all and their families are access to study guides, resources, articles, and practice tests to help them practice their academic skills and even prepare for placement exams like the LSAT, GRE, and GMAT. The Kuder® Career and Transition System The Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support website features the Kuder Career and Transition System, which is a tool that was designed especially for the US Military. This comprehensive online resource helps veterans and service members learn skills and build a career plan. CareerScope® Featured on the Department of Veterans Affairs GI Bill website, CareerScope® is a new tool that measures aptitude and interests by evaluating a students’ responses to an online test. At the end of the 60-minute test, the tool provides the student with potential career paths based on their responses. Free Educational and Vocational Counseling Chapter 36 – otherwise known as the VA’s Educational and Vocational Counseling program offers several services for transitioning service members who:
  • Are within six months prior to discharge from active duty.
  • Are within one year following discharge from active duty.
  • Currently receive educational assistance under Chapters 30, 31, 32, 33, 35, 1606, 1607.
  • Are Veterans and qualified dependents who are eligible for and have entitlement to education assistance under Chapters 30, 31, 32, 33, 35, 1606, 1607.
Services include career counseling, educational and vocational counseling, training program development, and academic and adjustment counseling. The goal is to identify and remove barriers to successful employment. Veterans Upward Bound The Department of Education offers the Veterans Upward Bound program to help veterans prepare for a successful college career. It is a free program, designed to help participants refresh their academic skills, including basic skills development, short-term remedial or refresher classes for high school grads and much more.   There’s no reason not to take advantage of the resources that have been created to help veterans and service members prepare for their college education. For student veterans and service members, there are people who want to help and whose purpose is to see you succeed.   #militaryeducation #militarybenefits #fromgreentogray  

Five Expensive Things That Are Way Less Important Than Your Education

Posted by Christine A. Shelly

In my experience at Grantham University, there were a few questions that would resurface each year. The most common one is this:  “Why should I get a college degree?”

I get it. College is expensive, finding a good job right now is challenging – even if you already have a degree. And the idea of investing a couple of years of your life and (unless you’re receiving employer or military education benefits) your money without some kind of guaranteed payoff at the end can be unsettling.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, education – a college education – is important. But why is education more valuable than certain luxuries? 

We’ve answered this question several ways before, but I wanted to frame it in a little different way today, just to help keep things in perspective. Here’s a list of things that lots of people spend money and time on that have far less impact on your future security than a college education.



militaryauthority.com education versus luxuries land rover

The average cost of a new luxury mid-size SUV is between $45,000 for a Lexus RX and $95,000 for a Range Rover. (US News & World Report 2013 Rankings).

According to the College Board, a “moderate” college budget for an in-state public college for the 2012–2013 academic year averaged $22,261. A moderate budget at a private college averaged $43,289. 

Until the day arrives that a car can get you a job or pay for your groceries, hang on to your reliable, reasonably-priced vehicle (or take the bus).


militaryauthority.com education versus luxuries starbucks

Yes, coffee costs significantly less than an SUV, but still – how much does a cup of joe really contribute to your life? Can it get you an interview? Or a promotion?  I think not.

A 2011 Consumerist report says the Average American spends about $1,100 each year on coffee. That’s a lot of money that could be put to better use. Like, say, on tuition, or textbook rental or a high-functioning laptop.


militaryauthority.com education versus luxury pet costumes

The National Retail Federation estimates that 22 million people will dress up their pets for Halloween and spend an estimated $330 million on pet costumes alone. Pet. Costumes. $330 million. I’ll wait while that little factoid sinks in.

That works out to be an average of $150 per pet owner. You could rent three textbooks online for the price of Fido’s custom Darth Maul costume and accessories.


militaryauthority.com education versus luxury teeth

The average cost of dental-assisted whitening treatment is about $650 – and the 10 million people who bought over the counter whitening products spent about $140 each year for their shiny smile. 

A shiny smile is a good asset to have, and according to the American Cosmetic Dentistry Association nearly 2/3rds of Americans believe an unattractive smile can hurt your social standing. But you know what can hurt your job standing? Not having an education.


militaryauthority.com education versus luxury superbowl tickets

College sports alone can cost at least $50 per ticket per game for students. In fact, according to a survey by ticket distributor TiQ, the average single ticket price to a college football game at one of the top 25 ranked football schools is $161.08. Multiply that by the number of games in a season and if you’re a sports fan, you’re shelling out a lot of cash that could be used toward your future employability. 

It’s your future, and your financial investment. Before you plunk down your hard-earned dollars, think about what you’d rather have. Will you spend your money on discretionary “nice-to-have” items, or on where the real value is- your education and skills?  


















#GranthamUniversity #militaryauthority #college #bynr

Shutdown! How Military Families Are Affected

Posted by Debi Teter

militaryauthority.com military families affected by shutdownIf you haven’t been living under a rock, you know that most non-essential government functions have shut down effective the start of the 2014 fiscal year, because Congress and the President were unable to agree on a budget. 

I say “most” non-essential government functions, because this Administration obviously deems it critically important to its functioning that we pay a number of federal workers to erect barricades to the open-air WWII Memorial, wire them shutand threaten our older veterans with arrest if they visit. 

Commissary workers, however? They aren’t considered essential at all. At least not in the United States, though overseas commissaries will remain open.  


Military Pay

Military pay for active duty troops will continue through the shutdown. Congress and the President agreed to fund salaries for uniformed military and selected civilian employees at the beginning of this week. However, the Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, interpreted the Congressional bill to exclude members of the National Guard, including full-time military technicians. This news came as a surprise to some Congressional Republicans who passed the bill: “I believe along with many others that he has improperly furloughed the National Guard employees,” said Candice Miller, (R – Michigan). “That was certainly not the intent of the act that we passed. For them to be furloughed — I quite frankly was stunned when he did that after we passed that bill.


Is retiree pay affected?

Not directly by the shutdown. Retiree pay comes out of a different pot of money than the one Congress is fighting over now. However, even if a budget is approved, we have another Congressional battle looming over the debt limit. Unless Congress approves additional borrowing, the federal government will no longer have access to the 40 cents out of ever dollar it’s been borrowing to finance spending. At that point, all bets are off, and nearly everything goes on the table. Military retiree pay could be reduced or even eliminated under that scenario. However, our view is that the threat of such a shutdown will drive both sides in Congress to strike a deal of some sort to avoid it. 

If you are distressed by money problems, or feeling depressed and suicidal, rest easy: The counselors at Military OneSource are still phoning it in. They will be happy to refer you to other federal agencies which are now closed. 


Child Services

If you’re stressed because you have small children and you need assistance with child care, again, all bets are off. The DoD has helpfully suggested you call your local child care activity on base for further guidance. Generally, federal Child Development Centers will remain open, according to the Military Family Association. However, school-aged care programs may be rolled back or eliminated in your area unless attached to a CDC. 

DoD schools remain open. 

The exchanges will be open for business. AAFES and the Navy-Marine Corps Exchange do not receive federal appropriations, so don’t rely on Congress for anything. 



Tuition Assistance – the same TA benefit that the DoD tried to strangle last spring to save money, will grind to a halt. No benefits will be disbursed for new classes until further notice.

Education centers are closed. This includes computer labs and counseling centers.  

MyCAA, or My Career Assistance Accounts, are closed to new requests until further notice. However, military spouses with benefits approved before October 1 are good to go. You can attend class. More information available at the SECO website here. Or call 800-342-9647. 


Health Care

You may see a reduction of hours at military clinics and hospitals. However, inpatient, emergency and dental care operations at TRICARE clinics will continue, as will TRICARE’s private sector operations. So you should still be able to see a non-military doctor if that provider is within the TRICARE system. 

If you have an appointment you made before the shutdown, TRICARE officials encourage you to call to confirm it. Your clinic’s hours may have changed since the shutdown. 


Travel Claims

TRICARE cannot process travel claims under TRICARE Prime or TRICARE Combat-Related Specialty Care during the shutdown. You can still file, a claim, but new claims won’t be approved until the shutdown ends. 

Brass Benefitted from Education Assistance – Now Pulling the Ladder Up After Themselves

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com military tuition assistance at riskSenior leaders at all four services would love to get rid of tuition assistance. In fact, they tried to get rid of TA last spring. Tuition Assistance is the benefit that provides servicemembers with money to attend college or grad school courses designed – in theory – to further their professional development.  

The Sergeant Major of the Army, Raymond Chandler, has publicly questioned the value of servicemembers earning degrees while on active duty. Regarding one soldier who had nearly completed a masters’ degree while serving, Chandler said, according to reporting from Military Times, “It’s commendable that he’s been able to do this, but what has this soldier been doing for the Army?”

You know these leaders: These are the ones who already got their bachelors and masters degrees, and who already got promoted to flag rank or or E-9 or senior GS level. Many of them got their masters degrees and in some cases, PhDs, while serving. For example, General David Petraeus received his Masters of Public Administration from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University in 1985 as did several of the colonels assigned to him in Iraq as a division commander in 2003. General Ray Odierno, the current Chief of Staff of the Army, received a Masters in Nuclear Effects Engineering from North Carolina State after being commissioned out of West Point. General Martin Dempsey, the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, somehow completed a PhD in Literature from Duke University. 

The late General Norman Schwartzkopf was paid to attend graduate school for two years, mid-career, at the pricey University of Southern California, where he earned a masters degree in aerospace and mechanical engineering on the Army’s dime. 

These are also the ones who, having made civilian education a factor in promotion, are looking to pull the ladder up after them. 

Nevertheless, the fiscal challenges confronting the DoD and the nation are real and significant – and benefits of all kinds are on the chopping block. Tuition Assistance is no exception. 

Most services already tried to eliminate TA dollars last fall. Congress blocked their efforts. But efforts to significantly restrict the benefit are already occurring.

The Army has not released any guidance as to what will happen to Tuition Assistance for its soldiers in the event of a government shutdown, though prudence indicates that soldiers and schools should not count on receiving that money at least until a new budget or appropriation is approved by Congress and signed by the President. In the meantime, the Army requires requests to be initiated not later than seven days after enrollment. It also set a deadline of midnight on 23 September for new requests if they were to be approved prior to the scheduled government shutdown on 1 October. 

The Navy has not issued any guidance for their sailors as of yet. The Air Force is continuing the program, but cutting it significantly in 2014. And with less than a week before the new fiscal year, Tuition Assistance for the Marine Corps is still undefined.

Meanwhile, while October paychecks for troops at risk, the President is pushing to send a third of a billion dollars to Syria.

Tips to Avoid Online Education Scams

Posted by Christine A. Shelly

Read more by Christine A. Shelly at Google+

militaryauthority.com online education scamsNobody wants to be called a fake or handed a phony product. Especially when your future is at stake. Phony diplomas can cost you your job, your reputation, and your future earning power. You’ve decided to pursue an online degree – but how can you tell which schools are legitimate and which could cost you more than you bargained for?  Service members, veterans and their families can protect themselves while looking for a degree program by checking for these signs:

 #1- You’ve checked the U.S. Department of Education accredited schools database and your school isn’t listed.

Military education benefits and federal student aid packages require the student to be enrolled at an accredited institution. Bogus schools are more concerned with collecting your money than they are with complying with accreditation standards or delivering quality education.

#2 – The school website, brochure, ad (or all three) make the promise of a degree in exchange for very little work, very little interaction, and a flat rate fee.

If their slogan is “Nobody turned down!” you want to turn the other direction. A degree that’s worth anything will require hard work. It’s not just handed out to anyone and everyone. Gaining knowledge, insight and experience is far more than a simple point and click consumer transaction. Few legitimate institutions charge by the degree.

#3 – They ask you for your bank account information.

A few years back, there were some schools whose “financial aid” departments contacted students and offered them scholarships or grants to attend. All they required in exchange, they said, was the student’s bank account information in order to process an administrative fee. Other schools will invite students to a mandatory financial aid “seminar,” that wind up being high-pressure sales pitches with promises of big scholarship checks for a small fee.

These schools should not only be avoided, they should be reported to the Federal Trade Commission.

#4 – The school has a name that is strikingly similar to a Big Name school.

Disreputable schools often rely on name recognition to lure students into their unaccredited programs. But where a degree from Columbia University in Missouri carries weight, a degree from Columbia State University in Louisiana does not. In fact, Columbia State University in Louisiana was closed due to court order.

When in doubt, contact your state (or the state where the school is located) attorney general’s office and confirm that it is 1) a legitimate business in good standing and 2) accredited by an accreditation body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

You’ve worked hard for your reputation. Protect it by selecting a reputable school. Do your research, ask questions, rely on people you know you can trust — and trust your gut. When in doubt, check out the school finder at militaryauthority.com — that’s a good place to start.

Find a School Now!







Ms. Shelly has spent more than a decade working in higher education. She currently serves as executive vice president for Grantham Education Corporation. Ms. Shelly is passionate about changing lives – about making college education accessible and affordable to more people and preparing students and graduates for success.

Must-See Websites for Military Students

Posted by Christine A. Shelly

militaryauthority.com must see websites for military studentsMilitary students – that is, students who serve their country while they work toward completing a degree – have a perspective that is unique to other students. So it makes sense that the resources they need while they’re in college might be a little different than those of the average first year college student.

Below is a list of websites that we’ve found helpful for military students. From student support organizations to scholarship assistance to academic help, these are some of our favorites. We can’t possibly list them all, but if there’s a site you’ve found particularly helpful, let us know in the comments below. Be sure to tell us what you find useful about it, too.


Financial Support


This foundation helps military families with scholarships and offers support for children and spouses of disabled or deceased service members.


Research/Academic support


What started out as a college blog project has become one of the most utilized student resources on the web for study advice and strategies. Study Hacks says their mission is ‘demystifying student success.’ 



This is an extensive collection of reference material, databases and other resources to help you find and check facts.



The CollegeBoard website has a substantial amount of information for students applying to and attending college.


Life/Work Resources

After Deployment – In-depth information, assessments and tools for transitioning/post-transition military.



Request your service records at this website. You’ll need your military service records for college applications, plus you can have them evaluated to determine how much of your training and experience can be counted toward your degree. 



Student Veterans is an organization whose focus is to empower military veterans with the educational resources imperative to success in the 21st century. They do this through support and advocacy on behalf of veterans.



This website is dedicated to connecting veterans to corporate business leaders through two free programs. Bonus – Jon Stewart just joined their advisory council.



And my host for this list, MilitaryAuthority.com is a site created for the military community that includes helpful information about education benefits, career planning, pay, retirement planning and healthcare benefits. There’s also a message board for locating and connecting with other military friends as well as helpful tools for finding military-friendly schools.


These sites are just a few of the online oases available for military students – and just fyi, mentioning them in this list does not constitute an endorsement. We weren’t compensated in any way. The Internet has made staying connected and informed so much easier – but you have to wade through a lot of garbage to get to the gems. Hopefully, this list will offer student service members a good place to start. 










Ms. Shelly has spent more than a decade working in higher education. She currently serves as executive vice president for Grantham Education Corporation. Ms. Shelly is passionate about changing lives – about making college education accessible and affordable to more people and preparing students and graduates for success.