In our series so far we have covered topics ranging from understanding the various types of college degrees to understanding what accreditation is and your Joint Service Transcript (JST). The purpose of our discussion has been to provide you with information to help you make your own determination as to what military friendly is when it comes to going to college.
Since beginning of this blog series, I have had the opportunity to enter into a number of discussions concerning what military friendly really is and what makes a true military friendly institution. Invariably, the discussion seems to gravitate to tuition rates and those charged to servicemembers versus dependents and veterans.
Do institutions need to offer the same tuition rates for servicemembers, dependents, and veterans in order to truly be military friendly?
For the purposes of our discussion for this blog, we will discuss online educational programs. Further, it is hoped this blog will spur some discussion on this rhetorical question.
One would think in order to be considered “best” or “military friendly” an institution would need to offer the same tuition rate for veterans and military spouses as they do for active duty, guard, and reserve service members. However, in my research for this blog, I found such is not always the case.
Through my research, I found a number of schools that do in fact offer military spouses the same tuition rate charged to active servicemembers, though in a number of cases, there are some caveats. In many cases, the “military” tuition rate only pertains to the spouses of active duty servicemembers. The spouses of National Guardsmen and Reservists are charged a different tuition rate than that of “active duty” servicemembers. A number of institutions charge a “reduced” tuition rate for spouses, usually in the form of a percentage discount. For veterans, it is an altogether different story.
My research uncovered some institutions that are being considered as “best” had on average higher tuition rates for veterans than for servicemembers and military spouses, in some cases the tuition rates are nearly double. Why is this the case? In speaking with some higher educational professionals working in the field of student finance, a common thread appeared. Veterans, particularly Post 9/11 GI Bill eligible veterans, have a greater ability to pay a higher tuition rates, and since they are not “actively” serving our country, they are charged a higher tuition rate than those that are.
Basically the scenario goes like this: An active servicemember is attending college online. Their tuition rate usually falls within the stated DoD Military Tuition Rate cap of $750 per three-credit course. On Friday they are serving our country, then on Monday they are a Veteran and are charged a higher tuition rate just because they now have access to their Post 9/11 GI Bill. Why does status matter? What changed for this particular student?
What has changed is their ability to access greater funds in the form of their GI Bill benefits to pay for their education. What if this student has transferred their benefits to their dependents and wants to continue with the education they began on active duty? Certainly, there are provisions that allow the veteran to “pull back” some of their benefits from their dependents. But I ask you; Is this truly being “military friendly”?