Putting off your education? Don’t!

pro·cras·ti·nate (verb) to put off till another day or time; defer; delay.
ma·ña·na  (Spanish noun) tomorrow; the (indefinite) future.
“I'll think about that tomorrow.” Scarlett O'Hara's famous last words in “Gone With The Wind” by Margaret Mitchell

I am the Queen of the Procrastinators. Every year on January first, I resolve to do my income tax returns as soon as those pesky forms arrive. And every year I flip the calendar to April and say, well, I won't go into what I say. Birthday cards? I buy them early, and maybe, just maybe, I'll mail them. Christmas presents are supposed to be wrapped in plastic grocery bags, right? Right? And don't even get me started on last year's vacation pictures that I was going to edit, caption, and upload to the cloud for everyone to see. In other words, I am too often like Scarlett – I put a hand to my forehead, close my eyes, and say, in a breathy Southern drawl - “I'll think about that tomorrow!”

Fortunately, one thing I didn't procrastinate about was my education. I started taking college courses way back before I joined the Navy (I wrote my papers on parchment paper with a quill pen, according to my smart-aleck sons). During my career, I used tuition assistance to take courses as my duties allowed, took a subject-specific GRE, and used ACE-recommended credits for my Navy training and experience. It may have taken me over 15 years, without much in the way of helpful education counseling I might add, but I finally put it all together in a degree plan and received my bachelor's degree. Not bad, considering my ‘mañana’ tendencies.

If I were to try the same thing today, it would go much, much easier. Now there are many programs and services in place that make the entire education process easier: SOC and MOUs ensure Service members’ credits transfer with them so that they don't have to repeat courses; the Joint Service Transcript (JST) and Air Force Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) transcript consolidate military training and experience into recommended credits that college institutions may apply to degree programs to reduce time and money for Service members; education counselors, both human and virtual, as well as agencies like DANTES, are available to help with every step of the way. Many resources, like OASC/CPST and the MWR Library, are in place with the sole purpose to help Service members reach their education goals. Service members no longer have to go it alone to reach their goals. Expert help is there for the asking.

So, to all you procrastinators out there - GET STARTED, if you haven't already. What are you waiting for? Meet with an education counselor, formulate a plan for your educational goal, move toward it, and don't wait until tomorrow! Tuition assistance is here now, but changes are in the wind. Downsizing is on the horizon. Take advantage of your education benefits NOW, while you still have them. No excuses. No 'mañana'. No “I'll think about that tomorrow.” Get started today!

Now, I'm off to mail my Valentine's Day cards. Maybe I'll add a note to say that they are for 2015 and be early for a change!

For valuable education resources, check out the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) Web site http://www.dantes.doded.mil/index.html.

Nancy Hamilton, DANTES Editor

Why Choosing the Right Degree Should Matter to Military Members (Part 1 of 2)

It doesn’t matter what degree I get. I just want to go into something where employers are hiring and pays well, it doesn’t matter what I do. Or does it? It sounds practical and down to earth.  When you leave the military you want to be able to match or raise your standard of living and many are not looking to add their names to the long list of Americans who are either under- or unemployed. However, it does matter what education path you choose. Pull any research study and you will see that those who choose career paths that are aligned with their interests, skills, and personality have higher rates of job satisfaction and lower rates of employee turnover (leaving their job).  The education path you choose may potentially impact your future career success and how satisfied you will be in your civilian career. So rather than choosing an education path based on, what others are doing or what pays the most, it would be wise to take time to figure out what will suit you the best.

It is important to consider what occupations will have available jobs when you leave the military, however, realize that although based on research, many career field projections are just projections. We live in a time of exponential technology growth were many of the high need jobs that are needed today, didn’t exist 10 to 20 years ago. While labor market information is important to consider before choosing an education and career path, the first place to start is with you.

What is your personality? What are you best at or gifted to do? What working conditions do you prefer? Do you enjoy rapidly changing job tasks or are you more comfortable with doing the same tasks every day? Is it fun to work with customers directly and accomplishing tasks in teams or would you rather work on your own to solve problems and complete complex tasks? Are you strong in math and science or do you prefer creative pursuits in the arts? These are just some of the questions that you need to be able to answer about yourself in order to begin the process of choosing an education and career path that will fit you.

This may seem like a difficult process, but technology and the right resources can help you with answering many of those questions in less than an hour. The following resources are available for military members and veterans to help find education paths and career fields that may be a good fit:

  1. Kuder Journey (for current Active Duty, Guard, and Reserve). This no cost, online assessment is available to help military members determine how their skills, abilities, and work values match particular degree paths and occupations. To get started today, visit http://dantes.kuder.com/. Your local or virtual professional military education counselor can assist you with understanding your results.
  2. Wounded Warriors. If you are interested in or are participating in the Wounded Warriors program, your transition counselor can refer you to the local education and career counseling services that offer vocational testing to match your skills, abilities, and personality with a career path that will support your successful transition. Click on one of the following to connect with your Service’s Wounded Warrior Program: Air Force, Army, Navy and Coast Guard, Marine Corps
  3. VA Education Benefits.  The VA offers eligible veterans the CareerScope program.  This interest and aptitude assessment tool is provided at no costs to veterans participating in one of the VA’s education benefit programs. To get more information on the Education and Career Counseling Services provided by the VA, visit http://www.gibill.va.gov/student_tools/careerscope/
  4. American Job Center. These one-stop career centers offer free vocational assessment tools similar to those discussed above as well as a host of other education, training, and career services. To find your local American Job Center, visit http://www.servicelocator.org/onestopcenters.asp

Taheesha
Taheesha Quarells is the Education Project Manager at DANTES. With over 10 years of experience, she is dedicated to expanding academic and career development opportunities for military members, veterans, and their family members

Post 9/11 GI Bill Housing Allowances Q&A

The following message is from Curtis L. Coy the Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity Veterans Benefits of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

GI Bill payments, particularly monthly housing payments, can sometimes be a mystery. You may hear about people receiving a smaller than expected monthly housing payment or not getting one at all when they think they should. Please allow me to explain how they work. Please get this out to all of our Veteran students and schools. I apologize for the longer than usual note, to summarize the key take always….

  • GI Bill housing allowance is paid after the fact. So if you start school on September 1 – the earliest you could be paid under the best of circumstances is October 1. We often hear … my housing allowance is late, how am I supposed to pay my rent, food, etc.
  • We do issue partial housing allowance. So if you were not in school the entire month (i.e.; December or January) you will get partial payment. We often hear … someone messed up my check, its less than I got last month….

“What is the monthly housing allowance?”
It’s a monthly benefit paid via direct deposit to students while attending school under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and is equal to the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) of an E-5 with dependents. It is based on the zip code of the school (a chart of BAH rates by ZIP code is at http://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/perdiem/bah.html<http://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/perdiem/bah.html> ). Active duty members and spouses of active duty members using transferred entitlement cannot receive the benefit, but Veterans, their spouses and dependents can receive the benefit.

“When does VA send payments?”
Payments are issued at the beginning of each month for training that occurred during the previous month. For example, assuming timely certification of enrollment by the school and timely processing by VA, payments for training taken in January will be issued by VA in February. The school must submit a student’s enrollment information to VA in order to start the payments.

“Why is my payment less than expected?”
The most common reason for a smaller than expected BAH payment is due to the payment being pro-rated based on the number of days in the month that a student is enrolled. Payments are made in arrears and only for the days actually attended, so if the term starts in the middle of January, the payment received in the beginning of February will be pro-rated accordingly. The first full payment will be issued in March for the month of February.

For example, suppose you are attending school full-time and your housing rate is $800 per month. The term starts on January 19th and goes until May 14th. All months are based on 30 day periods, so months that have more or less days do not impact the benefit amount. Therefore, the payment in this case for the month of January will be for 12 out of 30 days (19th to 30th), in the amount of $320, and it will be received in February. The payments for February, March, and April will be $800 each month, and the payment for May will be $373.33 (pro-rated from the 1st through the 14th).

Also, a student must attend more than half-time to receive the housing allowance payment. Benefits for attendance at less than full-time are pro-rated to the nearest multiple of ten. For example, if 12 credits are required for full-time attendance and the student is taking 8 credits, the student will receive 70 percent of the housing allowance (8 divided by 12 equals .66, which is rounded up to 70 percent).

Lastly, lower than expected payments may also be caused by over-payments. Over-payments are usually caused by students reducing the number of credit hours for which they are enrolled during the middle of a term, which can cause payments to be made based on the incorrect number of credit hours. When this occurs, the amount of the over-payment is deducted out of future benefit payments until the account is corrected.

Other housing payment issues
The monthly housing allowance payment rate for those enrolled solely in distance learning is half the national average of the BAH rates payable for an E-5 with dependents in the continental U.S. ($684 per month for the current academic year). A student can receive the full housing rate by attending one “brick and mortar’’ class where he or she physically attends.

The housing allowance for attending a foreign school is based on the average of the BAH rates payable for an E-5 with dependents in the continental U.S. (currently $1,368 per month).

Please share this information with the students you know. Understanding when housing payments are received and planning for lower payments due to breaks between terms can be critical to ensuring student’s success.

Answers to your questions regarding GI Bill Housing Payments can be found at www.GIBill.Va.gov <http://www.gibill.va.gov/>. If you have a question about your individual GI Bill payments, please submit your questions through the following link https://gibill.custhelp.com/ <https://gibill.custhelp.com/>

Graduate Student Funding Opportunities

DANTES PulseWhere has all the money gone? As a high school senior or undergraduate student, there seems to be an overwhelming wave of college funding opportunities through financial aid, grants, scholarships, athletic associations, clubs, community service organizations, etc. However, many graduate students outside of the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines are finding it harder to locate viable funding options to assist with their education. The list below are some resources that may help as you search for ways to pay for your graduate education:

 

 

 

Scholarships

1. Your School. Check with your school to see if you qualify for general or academic discipline specific scholarships (i.e. financial aid office, graduate admissions, college/program department, etc).

2. Search engines. Narrow your focus by doing tailored web searches using some of the popular scholarship search engines. Check out the Military Community Scholarship and Financial Aid Explorer or see Find Scholarship Money for popular search engines.

3. Doctoral Fellowships. Click on the names of the following fellowships if you are pursuing doctorate to learn about these funding opportunities:

Ford Foundation Fellowship Program

SREB-State Doctoral Scholars Program

Gates Millennium Scholars Program  (undergraduate to doctoral level)

 Employer-Sponsored Programs

Many graduate students are also employed full-time. Some employers offer tuition assistance programs for employee development that usually range from $1,000 up to $5,500 per year. Your supervisor or human resources department should be able to provide you with more information on what is available. Military members have access to tuition assistance through their local or virtual education center (see Find Your Military Education Center).

 Graduate Assistants

For military members who will be transitioning soon or veterans who are looking for part-time employment while they pursue their education, a position as a graduate assistant with your university may be an option. While earning valuable job experience and money, graduate assistants are usually offered reduced tuition or tuition waivers that can be applied toward your coursework. Check with human resources or your department chair for more information on what is available at your school.

Private Organizations
The following private organizations are examples of military friendly funding opportunities:

- National Military Family Association (usually opens in Jan.)

- Pat Tillman Foundation (usually opens in Feb)

- Thanks USA (usually opens Feb.-Apr.)

- Veterans United (offers a Fall and Spring scholarship program)

For more organizations like these, see Scholarships for Military Spouses .

Professional Associations
Most fields of study have an equivalent professional association that either offers scholarships or is current on funding available for your desired career field. If you are unfamiliar, talk to your professors or program department chair about applicable associations.

Loans
Federal education loans are available and can be accessed through the Department of Education by completing your FAFSA application. As of July 1, 2012, graduate school students are no longer eligible to take subsidized Stafford loans, a popular federal loan with interest paid by the government until after graduation. For more information on the student loans see New Student Loan Rate FAQ or visit StudentAid.gov.

Do you have questions or would you like to share resources that you found? Please leave a comment below.

New Student Loan Rate FAQs

As of July 1, 2013, the interest rate on new subsidized Stafford Loans rose to 6.8% from the previous rate of 3.4%. Our Administration is actively working with Congress to bring rates back down for new loans. In addition, the Administration has advocated that any plan passed by Congress apply to all loans first disbursed after June 30, even loans already disbursed.

If the law is changed, the Department and its servicers will adjust rates for all affected borrowers, including those who had already received their first subsidized loan disbursement, without any further action on the part of the borrower or the school.

We know some borrowers and families may have some questions about what the rate change means and we’ve answered some of the most common questions below. If you do have specific questions about your loan please visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/ or contact 1-800-4-FED-AID for more information.

Q: Should I still apply for federal student aid given the interest rate hike?

A: Students and families who wish to obtain financial aid should complete should complete a 2013-2014 FAFSA if they have not already done so. Schools should continue to award and process Direct Subsidized Loans with estimated disbursement dates. The Administration is working with Congress to bring rates back down for new loans.

Q: What is the current rate of federal subsidized loan?

A: Absent further Congressional action, the interest rate for all Direct Subsidized Loans with a first disbursement date on or after July 1, 2013, is 6.8%. This is the same interest rate that applies to Direct Unsubsidized Loans.

Q: Is the 6.8% rate permanent for the lifetime of my loan?

A: The Obama Administration continues to work with Congress to reach agreement on a plan to reverse the doubling of those interest rates.  Further, the Administration has urged that any plan passed by Congress apply to all loans first disbursed after June 30, even loans already disbursed. If the law is changed, the Department and its servicers will adjust rates for all affected borrowers, including those who had already received their first subsidized loan disbursement, without any further action on the part of the borrower or the school.

What if I already have a loan? Does the interest rate change?

A: No change in interest rates on a loan where the first disbursement was before July 1, 2013

This article was originally posted on ED.gov’s official blog by Cameron Brenchley. To view the original article, click HERE

Military Spouse Education and Career Opportunities Program

To demonstrate the Department of Defense's commitment to military spouses, it established the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) program. SECO is a comprehensive, holistic program that assists military spouses in the process of attaining education, training, licensure, employment, and portable career advancement opportunities.

SECO has four pillars of service delivery that help spouses move in and out of the workforce at various ages and stages of life.

 

Pillar #1: Career Exploration

One of the aims of SECO is to ensure that military spouses find satisfying work in portable career fields and related occupations that are available in their new community. The first step in accomplishing this is providing spouses with professional career counseling services that help them understand themselves. Specialty consultants provide career exploration assistance that includes: identifying career interests, aptitudes, skills, knowledge levels, personality type, and core values that are matched to different types of employment; providing information about today’s job market and work options such as full-time and part-time work, seasonal work, telecommuting, virtual work, job sharing, own-your-own business, and federal employment with emphasis on Military Spouse Preference, Priority Placement, and Special Hiring Authorities that spouses should ask for.

 

Specialty Consultants can be reached 6 days a week by calling 1-800-342-9647.

Pillar #2: Education, Training, and Licensure

SECO offers several support services and resources to ease the burden for military spouses trying to satisfy state-specific training, education, and licensure requirements:

  • Education and career counseling services and consumer awareness assistance to help spouses identify and compare potential schools and select one that is affordable and provides the education, training, and credentials that employers want to see on a resume. To access these services, call 1-800-342-9647.
  • My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) scholarships are available to eligible spouses, valued at up to $4,000.
  • Referrals to education financial assistance are available for all spouses, regardless of MyCAA eligibility (e.g., Pell Grants or Post 9/11 Education Benefits Transfer).
  • The state licensure initiative encourages all fifty states to adopt best practices and model legislation that allows spouses to work in their profession in a new state while they work towards meeting new state licensing requirements.

Pillar #3: Career Readiness

In preparation to join or re-enter the workforce in each new duty location, SECO provides career readiness services through consultants (1-800-342-9647) and military installation employment readiness specialists.

  • Spouses can get help with resume writing, interview skill building, dressing for success, the job application process, job search strategies, using the Internet and job boards, and finding child care and transportation resources.
  • MilSpouse eMentoring services are available to help connect spouses with more experienced military spouses, career mentors, and military spouse-friendly employers.
  • Contact information for installation employment readiness personnel can be found on MilitaryINSTALLATIONS (and select Spouse Education, Training, and Careers under the choose program or services option).

Pillar #4: Career Connections

There are many private sector employers and government organizations that are actively searching for military spouses to join their 21st century workforces. These organizations want the skills, knowledge, credentials, and attributes that military spouses have to offer. Contrary to advice given decades ago, career counselors today are urging spouses to identify themselves as military spouses in their job application packages, on their resumes, and through networking contacts. Saying “I’m a military spouse” makes it easier for recruiters to find military spouses, especially through widely promoted resources.

  • The Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP) web portal has over 130 Fortune 500 Plus military-friendly partner employers who have pledged to recruit, hire, promote, and retain military spouses in portable career job openings and career ladders.
  • These employers also participate in United States Chamber of Commerce Hiring Our Heroes (HOH) Job Fairs, which are held in approximately 400 communities across the nation in coordination with local chambers of commerce. A number of these fairs are designed specifically for military spouses

Whether it’s getting a scholarship to head back to school or finding a meaningful, portable career opportunity, SECO is designed to help military spouses reach all of their education and career goals.

For more articles related to Military Spouses check out the following:

  • Scholarships for Military Spouses
  • Federal Employment
  • Is a Master's Degree Really Worth It?
  • Career Mentor Program

Save Money in College with Cheaper Textbooks

It is no secret that college tuition costs continue to rise. However, the cost of college textbooks has risen 800% more that college tuition increases. So what can military students do to save money on books while in college?

1. Try e-textbooks. Try using your Android, Blackberry, or iPad tablet devices to access your course materials. eBooks are steadily increasing in popularity and offer a lower cost option when compared with the hard copy version. For those who like to tab pages and highlight while reading or studying, don't fret. There are a variety of free apps available for that will allow you to mark your e-book like a hard copy textbook.

2. Rent them. Your campus bookstore may offer the lower cost option to rent your books and return them at the end of the semester. There are also several major online retailers that offer the option to rent textbooks as well. Exercise caution with this option to make sure you fully understand the rental agreement terms and conditions. Also, this may not be an option for textbooks that you may need to keep such as writing manuals that you may need for formatting papers or books from the core area of your major.

3. Book Reserves or Exchanges. There are a few colleges that are leading the way in textbook affordability by offering students the option of reserving textbooks through the school's library for free or a small access fee. Also, some on-base/post military education centers have colleges that manage book exchanges for their military students to either sell or exchange their textbooks.

4. Buy Used. The easiest way to get cheaper books is to purchase used textbooks from your campus or online bookstore. Major online retailers also offer good deals on used books. Pay attention to the title, author, edition, and ISBN number to ensure you are getting the correct version of the book for your class.

5. Use social media. Does your school have a Facebook group page for students or are you connected with other college students through you social media accounts? If so, spread the word on the books that you need. A friend may come to the rescue.

6. Sell your used textbooks. If you are done with your books, sell them to your school's bookstore or through an online retailer. You could use the money you made to reinvest into another low cost option for purchasing books for your next set of classes. If you are feeling generous, consider donating them to your on-base/post book exchange. If you don't have one where you are stationed, pave the way and work with your local education center to start one.

This article is by Taheesha Quarells, the Education Project Manager at DANTES. With over 10 years of experience, she is dedicated to expanding academic and career development opportunities for military members, veterans, and their family members.

GI Bill and VA Benefits Assistance

Are you having problems accessing your GI Bill or other VA benefits? Student Veterans of America (SVA) and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) have partnered to launch a new program designed to provide veterans with direct assistance in navigating their GI Bill and other VA benefits. "1 Student Veteran" gives the  VFW and SVA access to VA Regional Offices where they can advocate for veterans who are having difficulties with the education claims process, wrongfully denied benefits, or payment errors. The program may help veterans avoid lengthy appeals processes by resolving issues quickly at the appropriate levels.

To get assistance, student veterans can email: 1studentveteran@vfw.org. Within 24 hours (Mon-Fri, except federal holidays), VFW National Veterans Service staff will acknowledge that the request has been received and begin intervening with the VA or recommend appropriate courses of action.

To learn more visit, the VFW by clicking HERE.

Military Access to Quality Schools

What is all the fuss about the VA's Principles of Excellence program and  DoD's Voluntary Education Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)? Why should veterans and military members be concerned?

These programs are both designed with what is BEST for students in mind. Everyone probably knows of a fellow student who has horror stories about getting ripped off, accrued too much debt in student loans, or have college credits that won't transfer. Both the Principles of Excellence and the DoD MOU  are designed to provide students access to quality schools that have agreed to maintain high standards in the care of their military and veteran students.

The VA's Principles of Excellence Program ensures that veterans and their dependents using VA education benefits are attending schools who show a continual commitment to providing valuable information and services to assist in making the best decisions regarding their educational future. If you are preparing to use VA education benefits, search the VA's website or the interactive map to find an approved school.

The DoD MOU ensures that service members using tuition assistance (TA) have access to accredited institutions that offer quality education programs. Visit the MOU website to search for schools that are approved to receive TA funding.

If you are having problems with the your current institution and would like to file a formal complaint, contact VOLEDCONCERNS@navy.mil for assistance in getting your issue resolved. In the future, the DoD Student Complaint System will be available for students to file a formal complaint related to their school.

Scholarships for Military Spouses

Interested in scholarships tailored for military spouses? Check out this short clip and follow some of the links below to get started:

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1. Air Force Spouses. The Air Force Aid Society offers the General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant and the AFAS Merit Scholarship.

2 Army Spouses. The Army Emergency Relief offers the Spouse Education Assistance Program which may provide up to $4,500 in financial assistance for students who are pursuing their first undergraduate degree.

3. Navy and Marine Corps Spouses. The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society provide both scholarships and no interest loans to assist military spouses with education related expenses. Scholarship programs include the RADM Courtney & Margaret Clegg Scholarship, NMCRS Gold Star Scholarship Programs, Society of Sponsors of the Unites States Navy Centennial Scholarship Program, Joseph A. McAlinden Divers Scholarship Program. Interest-free loan programs include the Spouse Tuition Aid Program, Vice Admiral E. P. Travers Loan Program, and the Admiral Mike Boorda Loan Program.

4. Coast Guard Spouses. The Coast Guard Foundation Spouse Education Grant covers education related expenses for active duty and reserve military spouses from E-3 to E-6. The Coast Guard Mutual Assistance Education grants and loans foster long-term financial well-being by helping Coast Guard families pursue their education goals through the Supplemental Education Grant, the Stafford/PLUS Loan Reimbursement Program, and the Education Loan Program.

5. National Military Family Association This organization offers the Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship and the Mental Health Careers Scholarship.

Did not find what you were looking for in the links above, check out this 15-page list of Scholarships for Military Spouses, Veterans, and Dependents.