The Economic Climate and Education for Returning GI’s
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, veterans of the First World War were hit hard by unemployment and poverty. At the time, there were no federal provisions in place guaranteeing help to those who had fought to protect their country. After World War II, the return of hundreds of thousands of soldiers prompted concern of another depression. Acting quickly and prudently, Congress moved to enact the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, better known today as the G.I. Bill of Rights, or just simply the G.I. Bill. This landmark piece of legislation had far reaching impact on the lives of veterans, containing provisions for education and job training; loan guarantees for homes, farms, or businesses; and unemployment pay. Among these many provisions, education was perhaps the most important. In deed, more than half of the eligible servicemen and women took advantage of the education benefit, providing college degrees to many who might not have otherwise received them.
In the G.I. Bill the government then and now recognize that the best way for new veterans to find employment is through education and training. Despite today’s slow but steadily improving economy, many companies understand that those trained in the military have unique life experiences that will serve them well in a variety of careers. Higher education— from a four-year university, accredited online college, vocational certificate program or community college — can add to that experience and give returning troops the competitive edge they need to stay relevant in today’s job market.
The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill
In 2009 the Post-9/11 GI Bill took effect, promising payment for tuition and living expenses to those who served in the armed forces after September 11, 2001. Importantly, in 2011 the bill expanded to include vocational schools, on-the-job apprenticeships, flight programs, and correspondence training. It also began providing a housing allowance to those enrolled in full-time distance learning – online – courses. For veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq who are returning home to a sluggish economy and a high rate of unemployment, a college education seems to be the best option, and thousands have enrolled in higher-ed programs because of the benefits the bill offers.
Yellow Ribbon Program And Accommodations for Veterans on Campus
The Post 9/11 G.I. Bill has gone a long way in providing an incentive for veterans to return to school and its Yellow Ribbon Program is responsible for alleviating a large portion of the financial stress associated with attending college. Under the Yellow Ribbon Program, schools volunteer to pay tuition and fee expenses that exceed the maximum tuition covered by the government under the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. The Department of Veteran Affairs will then make a matching contribution to the individual’s fees and expenses. Through the hundreds of participating private and public universities, the Yellow Ribbon Program has allowed thousands of veterans to attend more costly out of state or private universities and colleges.
As a result of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and associated Yellow Ribbon Program, college campuses are seeing a surge of veteran students entering higher education and, as a result, are becoming much more vet-friendly. Campuses across the country are creating veteran’s offices on campus and streamlining the veteran application and admissions process while also establishing special mentoring and counseling services. In deed, Student Veterans of America, an organization that supports veterans in their transition to higher education, now has over 500 offices in colleges around the country.
Accredited Online Education for Veterans
With the expansion of the G.I. Bill to include housing benefits for those enrolled in distance learning programs, accredited online degrees are a good option for those who don’t want to uproot their lives in order to attend a university in person. Online education offers veterans the flexibility to finish a degree when and where they want to, which is ideal for those who have other jobs, families, or further commitments to serve at home or abroad. In addition, tuition for online degree programs are often completely covered by the G.I. Bill, making these schools a good financial option. Finally, they often provide training and degrees in fields such as criminal justice, which can be an ideal fit for ex-military personnel but are rarely offered at traditional universities.
Not surprisingly, online universities have made special attempts to make themselves available to veterans, and as a result they account for the majority of veterans seeking degrees. Although some institutions have recently come under fire for taking advantage of veterans for their G.I. Bill benefits, other online universities have proven to be effective starting points for returning soldiers. Because the transition from military to civilian life can be a difficult one for those who have been to war, online degrees might be the necessary middle step for those veterans seeking a new career.
Jobs For Veterans
Most recently, passage of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act by President Obama and the U.S. Congress has attempted to offer further assistance to the nearly 900,000 veterans currently looking for work—particularly those between the ages of 35 and 64, who unfortunately represent two-thirds of unemployed veterans, but might not qualify for other programs. This piece of legislation emphasizes retraining, providing tuition waivers for vocational and certificate programs in high demand sectors that don’t require four-year degrees. Other programs, such as the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service, specifically target disabled veterans.
There are many vocational or non-degree jobs that are expected to have better than average growth over the next several years, several of which are a good fit for ex-military personnel. These include truck driver, auto mechanic, electrician, professional chef, and carpenter. For disabled veterans, organizations such as the Veterans Vocational Technical Institute offer training in “virtual careers”— like call center tech support —that can be performed from home. These flexible jobs are especially appealing for those with limited mobility. Large corporations have also stepped up to help: Microsoft recently launched the job program Elevate America, which includes a special provision for veterans, offering technology skills training, job placement, and career counseling for soldiers and their families. Other companies offer scholarships to offset tuition costs for promising veteran students in particular fields. Google, for instance, has teamed up with Student Veterans of America to assist students interested in pursuing a computer science degree.
Benefits for All
The list of companies vowing to hire veterans continues to grow. The financial incentive recently issued by the federal government certainly sweetens the pot, but there are other intangible benefits that make it worth more than just money in the bank for potential employers. According to the job search site Monster.com, most employers believe that veterans perform better in the workforce than non-veterans. And although the unemployment rate for veterans is higher than for the average population, there are many employers who are hoping to change those dire statistics. Corporations such as Wal-Mart, Chase, Siemens, and Goldman Sachs have pledged to hire more veterans, and with the education benefits currently available to returning soldiers, the future is looking bright for the nation’s returning heroes.