Tagged: military spouse education

Army Senior Enlisted Members Need to Transfer GI Bill Benefits by Jan 31, 2013

Posted by Kelli McKinney

Change to GI Bill transfer education benefitIn a few days, the Army will announce the approximately 4,000 Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) E6-E9 who will be ineligible to re-enlist. With the very real possibility of this life-changing announcement, many military families need to make some hard decisions quickly.

One of those decisions is with regard to the Post 9/11 GI Bill Transfer Education Benefit (TEB). This benefit enables servicemembers to transfer their GI Bill school money to a dependent spouse or child.

As of January 31, 2013, if you or your servicemember is one of the 4,000 suddenly unable to re-enlist, they are also suddenly ineligible for the TEB.

If you believe your servicemember will be on that list, now is the time to determine which family member would benefit the most from education benefits.

Because the DoD considers the TEB as a bonus and not an entitlement, it will be one of the many casualties of the Qualitative Service Program (QSP), the program formed to help identify NCOs for involuntary separation.

From the Army communication dated 13 January 2013:

(Soldiers identified by the QSP Board) “…will no longer be eligible to transfer their chapter 33 (Post 9/11 GI Bill) benefits to their dependents if they chose not to do so PRIOR to 31 Jan 13.”

Soldiers who have engaged in the last 11 years of multiple warfronts and a continued cycle of deployment are being forced to discharge. This can mean dealing with feelings of insecurity on many fronts:  finances, career options, and future education. Putting a plan in place and taking action to prepare yourself and your family will help ease this potential discomfort. You must act now to prepare for these changes – start with learning how to transfer your education benefits.

For alternative sources of funding for military spouses’ education, check out this page.

How to Tell if a School is Right for You

Posted by Kelli McKinney

How to choose the right schoolYou’d think that once you’d decided to pursue secondary education, the rest of the decisions would be a little easier to make. But alas, there are still a slew of choices to make – from selecting what type of school (distance education or brick–and-mortar?) to which field of study and whether a part-time or a full-time schedule will meet your needs as a service member or military spouse.

There are a ton of schools out there to choose from – some with easily recognizable names; others, not so much. Finding the right school takes time and consideration, like eating a hot air balloon. So let’s break this hot air balloon down into bite-size chunks before we eat it, shall we? Here’s an easily digestible set of tips to help you find the kind of school that meets your needs.

Speaking of needs, this whole search is about one person and one person alone: you. So with y-o-u is where we begin. 

What do you want?

The first step in this process, believe it or not, is to take stock in your goals, strengths, opportunities, likes, dislikes, social needs and financial needs. You need to have a finely-tuned awareness of what you’re trying to achieve and what resources you have or need to achieve it.  

Make your own checklist.

By no means am I suggesting that the tips outlined here aren’t valid or worthwhile. But make sure that your individual priorities and goals are reflected. The tips here are generalized and work for most people – but as we discussed already, you are not most people. Use these tips and add your own success measurements as needed.

Consider the Culture.

Whether online or on-campus, there is always an underlying current belonging to a school.  In some schools, for example, the underlying current has to do with prize-winning research; others may flow strictly around football championships; still others are devoted to volunteerism. 

A big part of the collegiate experience is exposure to ideas and expression that is different from your own; but an equally big part of the experience is finding a group of people who are somewhat like-minded to build supportive relationships. The learning community you cobble together over time is incredibly important.

The best way to get a sense for what the collegiate culture is about is to spend time with it.  Many people prefer the virtual community because it works best with their military service and family obligations. Get to know the online campus culture by visiting social media, contacting prospective student services and reaching out to current students, alumni, professors and teaching assistants. For brick and mortar schools, spend some time on campus and talk to people. Regardless of what kind of school you are interested in, it’s always good to ask current students, former students, professors, teaching assistants about the school’s priorities and culture. 

Consider the school’s success rate.

If you’re bringing transferred credits or military experience to the table, or if you’ve got a unique family or academic background (and everybody does), it’s worth a conversation with an academic advisor or prospective student representative to find out a few key nuggets of information. These pieces of information can help you determine if a school is a worthwhile investment of your time and money:

  • Graduation rates
  • Job placement rates
  • Dropout rates/retention rates
  • Student support services
  • Veterans support services
  • Student transfer (in and out) rates
  • Credit acceptance for open online courses, military experience, or other academic experience

Consider the school’s academic standards.

There are, unfortunately, schools that are more invested in developing their brand name than they are in educating students. Ask about the number of full-time faculty, the amount of reading and writing required to complete courses, the grade point average of graduating classes, and the accreditation of the school overall.

These are just a few tips and considerations to help you weigh your school choices. As always, there are plenty more questions that can be asked. But these questions can help you get past the smoke and mirrors and into the critical conversations with prospective programs. After all, it’s your future success on the line here. Isn’t it worth taking the time to make sure you receive the best possible education experience for your investment?

 

One good place to find schools that understand and work with military students (and families of military) is with the Military Authority School Finder. Answer a few questions and you’ll be matched with schools that can help you meet your education goals.

Seven Things to do Before the World Ends

Posted by Kelli McKinney

So, now, about that impending apocalypse… I realize I’m a little late to the Mayan Doomsday party, but holy smokes, do I have a lot left to do on my bucket list. I’d better get cracking. I’m not sure if I can get these all in, but hey, I’ll give it a shot.

1) Eat jalapenos straight from the jar.

2) Play the violin for a US President.

3) Visit Carhenge with my husband and son. Done. Why yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds. See photo.

Carhenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4) Engage son in all-out plastic army man/Jenga blocks/Angry Birds battle of superheroic proportions. Lose said battle graciously. Done. Yes, it was awesome too. See photo.

AngryBirds battle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


5) Eat fried butter on a stick. In progress. You don’t want to see this photo. Trust me.

6) See a baby bison. Done. And it was super cute.

baby bison

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


7) Earn a degree.

Numbers three and four are good, and in hindsight I should have tackled number one before I attempted number five. Number two was a total planted question so I could feel somewhat accomplished in my life. Sorry about that. Please don’t judge me. I performed with a youth orchestra for President Ronald Reagan when I was a kid. It totally still counts.

But anyway, I’m thinking, for argument’s sake, that if the world doesn’t actually end on Friday I can still achieve number seven. It’s not impossible, right? There are plenty of online programs that would accommodate this working mom‘s wacky schedule. I may even be able to work out a class schedule that leaves me enough time to take that zumba class I’ve been anxious to try. (Note to self: #8 – give zumba a whirl.) And if you are in the military or are a veteran or dependent, you can achieve this, too, especially with all of the education benefits available to you.

Here’s wishing everyone a happy doomsday and (if we’re lucky), a wondrous holiday season and an adventurous new year!

GI Bill Tip: Establishing Residency for In-State Tuition

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

Tuition costsYesterday, we brought you the saga of Kayleigh Perez, a spouse of an active duty soldier stationed in North Carolina who was denied residency status by the University of North Carolina.

A bit of digging revealed why – and some lessons for other servicemembers and their families as they transition to schools in new states.

Background

Under the new Post-9/11 GI Bill rules, establishing residency in a state system is crucial to maximizing GI Bill benefits, because GI Bill benefits only cover in-state tuition.

Until the beginning of 2011, the Post-9/11 GI Bill would pay up to the highest in-state tuition rate anywhere in the state. Buy as of fiscal year 2011, Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits are capped at the actual tuition for in-state servicemembers. This is true even though the same servicemember would receive even greater benefits – up to $17,500 per year – attending a private institution. The result is a perverse incentive to attend a more expensive school.

This was a big deal for Ms. Perez, because the out-of-state tuition puts the Broke in UNC-Pembroke: it’s $12,219. That’s compared to a price tag of $3,012 if she qualified for in-state tuition, which is all she’d get from the Post-9/11 GI Bill in any case. By selecting Methodist University – a private institution – over the UNC system, Perez can qualify for a benefit of up to $17,500 per year, and potentially pay nothing out of pocket.

So why was Ms. Perez’s application for residency denied? After all, the State of North Carolina grants residency status to active duty servicemembers stationed in North Carolina and to their dependents alike. Well, as with so many things, the devil is in the details.

Timing Matters

Under North Carolina law, residency for service members and their families begins as of the effective date of their orders transferring them to their new command. This means that your wife doesn’t get to qualify for residency status in North Carolina if you send her over first to find a new place for you. And North Carolina doesn’t allow residency based on a set of PCS orders that haven’t been executed yet. The servicemember has to be present in North Carolina and on duty at the new duty station before the beginning of the term for which the service member is applying for benefits.

Per the University of North Carolina:

The active duty service member must produce a “Command confirmation of residency letter” from their commanding officer on official letterhead. In the event that a service member is deployed and their dependent needs this letter – the commanding officer or the family readiness officer can provide this to the dependent. The service member must officially assume the duty station in North Carolina prior to the beginning of the term for which they are seeking the military tuition benefit.

The policy is relatively restrictive on the front end, but it favors the student on the back end:

Suppose Ms. Perez enrolled for the summer semester, and qualified for in-state tuition. But then her husband received PCS orders transferring him to another state on day two of the semester. Ms. Perez would get to finish the entire semester in North Carolina at in-state rates. Further, she can stay at UNC for as long as she’s continuously enrolled. UNC won’t strip her in-state tuition price tag because her husband got transferred somewhere else, as long as she stays enrolled, with one condition: Her husband must still maintain residency in North Carolina, documented on his LES after the second term, and be able to show that residency status for the previous 12 months. As long as her husband’s LES says his home of record and income tax withholding is in North Carolina, his wife is good to go, no matter where her husband is serving.

This is why knowing the specific rules governing residency in your state is important. Each state has its own rules governing eligibility. But in any case, it’s a good idea to secure a command confirmation of residency letter on unit letterhead.

Here’s a sample letter to show your unit clerk, first sergeant, CPO or commander to demonstrate residency for dependents. Here is a sample for the servicemember’s own personal application.

Even if your state doesn’t formally require a command confirmation of residency, it won’t hurt your application to include it anyway. Many times, the decision to grant residency for in-state tuition purposes can be subjective. There’s no kill like an overkill, so make the rubble bounce.

UNC Denies Residency Status to Veteran – Charges Out-Of-State Tuition Rates

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

hayleigh perez UNC tuitionThe University of North Carolina is charging out-of-state tuition rates to a U.S. Army veteran who claims she has long maintained a residence within the state. Hayleigh Perez, 26, enlisted in the Army in 2005, and was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. According to reporting by ABC News’s Susanna Kim, Perez deployed overseas in January 2007 for a 15-month tour. She returned in 2008 and was discharged in September 2009. She is married to an active-duty servicemember.

The couple own a home in North Carolina, but had been living in Texas for several years, where her husband was stationed. Now her husband has been transferred back to North Carolina.

Hayleigh is now trying to attend the University of North Carolina on the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Benefits only cover in-state tuition costs. But the University has denied her application to residency status due to her absence from the state while she was living in Texas.

Ms. Perez appealed to the State Residency Board, which also denied her appeal.

Background

Residency requirements and criteria are generally a function of state law. There is no uniform set of standards that apply across the country, and each state is free to set its own residency criteria for its own college and university systems.

The State of North Carolina points to the set of laws passed by the North Carolina legislature that guides officials on how to determine eligibility for in-state tuition.

Here is the Residency Manual published by the State of North Carolina specifically to define the criteria for college officials.

While it is true that applicants must generally demonstrate that they are domiciled in North Carolina to receive state tuition, page 16 of their own manual contains the following passage:

Under the special in-state tuition laws for active duty military personnel and their eligible family members, if a non-resident member of the armed services is stationed in North Carolina because of his or her active duty military service, then the service member as well as his or her spouse, dependent children, and dependent relatives who are living with the service member shall be charged the in-state tuition rate along with any applicable mandatory fees.

Perez’s husband received orders to return to North Carolina in April of 2012.

In addition, North Carolina defines the residency eligibility for dependents of active duty servicemembers in black letter law:

Any dependent relative of a member of the Armed Forces who is abiding in this State incident to active military duty, as defined by the Board of Governors of The University of North Carolina and by the State Board of Community Colleges while sharing the abode of that member shall be eligible to be charged the in?State tuition rate, if the dependent relative qualifies for admission to an institution of higher education as defined in G.S. 116?143.1(a)(3).

It is not clear why the residency board decided not to apply this part of the law in Perez’s case, though the law does say that she has to share the abode of her servicemember sponsor to qualify.

More details here. According to reporting from the Fayetteville Observer, Perez did not provide sufficient documentation to buttress her claim to residency. However, all it would take to demonstrate residency under the criteria established above would be a copy of her husband’s orders and a dependent military ID, along with documentation that she was sharing an abode with her husband. Fayetteville State University – another campus in the UNC system, accepted her residency status – it was only the UNC-Pembroke campus that did not.

Sandy Briscar, acting as a spokesperson for the University of North Carolina Pembroke, declined to comment on Perez’s case specifically, citing HIPAA concerns, other than to say that Perez had applied for the spring semester, and at that time, she had not submitted sufficient documentation to UNC Pembroke to demonstrate that she was entitled to residency status.

One issue: Timing. According to Pembroke campus spokesperson Sandy Briscar, Perez applied for the spring semester – which was almost over by the time her husband arrived in North Carolina in April.

If you are considering applying for in-state tuition in a state you plan to move to after receiving PCS orders, it may make sense to ask, in writing, if the campus will accept PCS orders as proof of domicile for the purpose of establishing residency. If the school responds in writing, you have something to include with your application – and something on which to base an appeal if the residency decision doesn’t go your way.

Jodi Worthington, a spokesperson for the University of North Carolina system responded to our requests for more information. “Because Ms. Perez’s circumstances have changed and her husband is now stationed in North Carolina, she would be considered an in-state resident were she to re-apply to a UNC institution now,” said Worthington, both by phone and by email. “We would encourage her to do so.”

It was not immediately clear why her application for residency status was approved at Fayetteville State University but denied at Pembroke.

We asked the UNC if a military family could apply for in-state tuition status once they had the PCS orders in hand, or if they had to wait until they were actually present in North Carolina before the application could be approved, and why the two campuses came to different conclusions about her eligibility for residency status. At press time, the UNC has not responded. We will update this story when they do.

Meanwhile, Ms. Perez has decided to attend a private college in the area, where she intends to pursue a degree as a physician’s assistant.

 

Photo credit: ABC News

A long time ago, at a birthday party far, far away

Posted by Debi Teter

LtCol Kiebler jediOne young Star Wars fan had the best surprise in his five years on this planet.

Danny Kiebler’s dad, United States Air Force Col. Rob Kiebler, of Beaverton, Oregon has spent the last 14 months on duty in Afghanistan. Danny wasn’t expecting to see him until the end of the summer. When his fifth birthday came around, like many young boys, he wanted a Star Wars-themed party.

Unbeknownst to Danny, his dad happens to be one stellar party planner. He came home on leave a little early and teamed up with Portland’s Cloud City Garrison, a Star Wars fan club, to give his son a gift that was out of this world.

Kiebler bought a Jedi knight costume, came to the party and blended in with the other costumed characters until the time was right to reveal his identity to his son. What happens next would melt the heart of a Sith Lord.

“I wasn’t sure he was going to let go,” said one member of the Cloud City Garrison.

It’s plain to see Col. Kiebler has a Jedi-worthy knack for strategic planning and tactical maneuvers, whether it’s for an initiative in the desert or managing the intricacies of his son’s party. Planning for the future can be tough, let alone when you’re trying to do it from the other side of the world.

Planning ahead for your kids’ education is no exception. According to an April 2012 study by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, out of all American families with financially dependent children, only 41 percent of them had money set aside for college. But never fear, young padawan. Even though the cost of higher education is increasing, with your military benefits and resources at hand, saving for your kids’ future education doesn’t have to be a galactic mess.

Like the jawa traders, we have plenty of droids – I mean, articles – for you to choose from that can help you craft a workable plan for the future. Whether you want to plan for your own continued training on Dagobah in college, find scholarship opportunities for your college-age children, or both, you can find relevant information on MilitaryAuthority.com. And may the Force be with you in your search.

Folds of Honor Foundation Scholarships

Posted by Debi Teter

folded American flag“Are you drunk?”

An appropriate question when your spouse calls home in the very wee hours of the morning, stating he has found his mission in life. No, Major Dan Rooney wasn’t drunk that night, and supported by his wife, Jacqy, and through inspiration of fallen service members and their children, the Folds of Honor Foundation came to life. The name is derived from the legend of what each fold of the American flag means. FOH offers two scholarships; the Children’s Scholarship Fund for children from kindergarten through 12th grade, and a post-secondary scholarship.

The Children’s Scholarship Fund provides tuition assistance for K-12 education and certain summer camps, as well as for uniforms, books, and tutoring. Eligibility is based on parental death or disability (of at least 90%) during or as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, or Operation New Dawn. The death of their parents should not prevent children from continuing their education in the manner their parent wanted, nor should they lose the stability of their educational surroundings while enduring the overwhelming loss of a parent. The application requires proof of dependency, proof of disability/death, and the child’s enrollment status with transcripts. A brief essay (by the parent) is also needed.

The post-secondary scholarship is for all dependents, military spouses and children alike. The eligibility for these scholarships is expanded compared to the Children’s Scholarship. It includes:

  • dependents of Prisoners of War (POWs) and those Missing in Action (MIAs);
  • dependents of those forcibly detained or interned by a foreign power; and 
  • dependents of service members who received a purple heart.

The award can be applied toward tuition, fees, and books for two-year and four-year college programs as well as for technical and professional vocational programs. Unlike most scholarships, this can be applied to and held for future use for the child; the surviving parent may apply on his/her child’s behalf. Scholarships may be renewed based on a minimum 2.0 grade point average, good standing at the school, and available funding. Applications for future use, present use, and continuing use require independent applications and additional paperwork proving dependency and service member status, as well as brief essays.

There are many ways to help the Folds of Honor Foundation help our military dependents. Do you play golf? Find a course that participates in Patriot Golf Day and play a round (or two!) for a good cause. Your local fairway not participating? Convince them to host a Patriot Golf Day and spread the word to your fellow golfers! If you’re in Oklahoma, consider participating in or watching The Patriot Cup, a PGA-sponsored Memorial Day weekend fundraiser for the Folds of Honor Foundation.

Are you a music fan? Country music singer Craig Morgan wrote “What Matters Most” for the Folds of Honor Foundation. Purchase and download the song, as well as make an additional donation online. Love swag? Find books, shirts, hats, and other items at the Folds of Honor online store. Direct financial donations may be made online, too.

Online College Education? There’s an App for That

Posted by Debi Teter

For military personnel, pursuing an online education has many advantages over attending a brick and mortar school. Learning can take place almost anywhere, anytime. But that’s even more true today thanks to many schools using emerging technologies to offer content on mobile phones. Gone are the days of simply using a smartphone to make calls, send text messages to classmates or do a quick Google search. Mobile phones are quickly becoming an indispensable tool for students.

There’s even a proper name for it: Mobile Learning (ML). ML is defined as “learning with portable technologies including but not limited to handheld computers, MP3 players, notebooks and mobile phones,” according to Mobile Learning Edge.

Mobile devices are being used by colleges and universities in a number of ways:

  • Online schools have created apps that enable students to watch video lectures and access course information from inside the apps
  • Students can participate in online discussions or video conferences to work on projects together while living in different parts of the globe
  • University libraries can be accessed by students on the go to read eBooks, conduct research and save useful information for later use
  • Twitter hashtags are used to denote certain schools and classes so that students can share information and comments from other students in real-time even if they are not physically in one classroom

Nursing schools, popular with military spouses who know they will be able to find employment as nurses no matter where they live, are training their students to use mobile devices to access online medical databases or apps. While they don’t create apps or sites specifically for their schools, many are mandating that students carry a mobile device to reference the most up-to-date medical and pharmaceutical information. Rhonda Maneval of Temple University explains, “In a clinical setting, nurses can’t waste time and effort flipping through a 10-year old reference book. We want to guide students to use technology so they will be prepared when they start seeing patients as professionals.”

Other schools, though, have created their own mobile portals for students. 10 of the online schools currently offering students mobile access to improve their education experience or who have mobile apps in the works include:

UP image001University of Phoenix — In April, the University of Phoenix launched an app, only available on the iPhone and iPod touch, which allows students to read online discussions and threads, find assignments and receive an alert when their grades are posted.

 

col image004Colorado Technical University — CTU uses an online platform that supports access from mobile devices. Students can get course assignments, watch archived lectures, listen to Podcasts and participate in discussion forums.

Grantham University building photoGrantham University— Grantham recently launched a new web site that delivers content to a variety of devices dynamically. The site detects the user’s device and adjusts to serve the appropriate content. Future plans include a mobile version of the course delivery platform for students.

 

KapU 2200Kaplan University — Kaplan offers its students an app to retrieve class content, take part in discussions and access their financial aid information.

 

 

 

AmerInter 5American InterContinental University — “AIU Mobile” is offered to students on iPads, iPhones and Android devices. It allows students to respond to questions from teachers and classmates; view, edit and save drafts of discussion comments, and receive alerts when grades are available.

 

Ash IowaAshford University — Ashford’s mobile app lets users connect to an online learning center, take part in discussions, view grades and contact university support staff.

 

 

Dvy UDeVry University — DeVry offers a mobile app for students to access library resources so they can search, save and email articles. Other content available includes news, sports and events information.

 

GGU 200pxGolden Gate University — Golden Gate is scheduled to launch an app in the next school year to allow students to access course content.

 

 

WGUWestern Governors University — is developing apps for various courses they offer online and plan to launch the services in the fall of 2012.

 

 

WaltersStWalters State Community College — This school in Morristown, Tennessee, is considering using a frog-dissection app in place of a traditional science lab for students who are too squeamish to handle the real thing.