New GI Bill will increase the numbers of veterans going to college, but will they graduate? - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Commentary

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New GI Bill will increase the numbers of veterans going to college, but will they graduate?

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Posted: Monday, July 27, 2009 11:00 pm

T

he new GI Bill becomes effective Aug. 1. Thousands of veterans nationwide are signing up to attend college.

Meanwhile, hundreds of colleges and universities are planning for the anticipated increase in veteran’s enrollment. This Post 9/11 GI Bill may also be a financial boon to educational institutions across the board. Veterans, on the other hand, must be cautious and prepared for their post-secondary educational mission.

It is fair to say that thousands of veterans who are planning to take advantage of their earned Post 9/11 GI Bill educational benefits may not be ready for the rigors of higher education. The new GI Bill guarantees college’s tuition and fees. When considering public institutions in Arizona the price tag could be over $14,000 per student per school year and that does not include veterans living allowance. That $14,000 figure will be in the educational institution’s bank account once a veteran enrolls. However, if the student veteran fails to successfully complete his/her academic work some or all that money will have to be repaid to the federal government. Veterans must think about this situation. Veterans must be successful. Here is a cautionary note to veterans. Be prepared for success by planning ahead before beginning college.

One element in that planning process should include some retooling of academic skills.

Many veterans who are returning to college will find a rigorous bachelor’s program extremely challenging. One of the top three reasons why students drop out of college is being unprepared academically. Some veterans, including high school graduates and particularly those without a high school or GED certificate, will recognize that some of their academic skills have eroded. For many the extent to which those academic skills have rusted may be disastrous, particularly in the first semester of college. The primary areas affected are in English (reading, writing and composition), math and computer literacy. Student veterans will need to take foundation courses to ensure success if their clear objective is to graduate from college.

Remedial classes cost the same as classes that accumulate toward a degree or vocational certificate. How much veterans spend on remedial classes will depend on their academic skills. Dropping out should not be an option. One community college credit currently cost $71. The cost for a single credit at Arizona State University is more than $400. Veterans may want to multiply those numbers by the amount of credits they plan to take per semester for a realistic understanding of their total cost for college credits each semester. The fact is, remedial classes can significantly add to the overall cost of a degree or certificate program and prolong graduation. The suggestion here is for veterans to try and minimize the cost for remedial classes if possible.

One way in which some veterans can prepare for college and save on their GI Bill benefit dollars is by doing selective refresher work through the Veterans Upward Bound program. VUB is funded by the U.S. Department of Education and sponsored by ASU. Veterans Upward Bound, located in Tempe, provides remedial instruction in English, math and computer literacy at no cost to veterans.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill educational benefits last for 15 years from the last date of a veteran’s release from active duty. Veterans should use most of their dollars on classes that transfer to a university or go toward a vocational certificate or degree.

The new GI Bill guarantees that institutions will be paid for educating veterans. Here is a question that tickles the mind of this veteran’s advocate, are institutions guaranteeing that veterans will graduate in large numbers? While significant emphasis in being placed on recruiting veterans, much more can be done about preparing institutions for veterans arrival. Colleges and universities should be gearing up for expanded veteran’s educational counseling, adding faculty and staff that understands the needs of veterans, develop tutoring programs and study halls and places where veterans can interact with other veterans. A plethora of services above and beyond the obligatory veteran’s service office that primarily focuses on admission and fee payment questions are surely needed.

 

Marcus Wright is a recruitment/retention specialist with the Veterans Upward Bound program at Arizona State University. For more information, visit www.GIBILL.va.gov; www.va.gov; or call (602) 627-3261 or (800) 827-1000.

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