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Waging War on Debt, Veterans Face Ambiguity and Lack of Structure in Higher Education


A number of programs exist to help veterans pay for college. But as more and more vets take advantage of those problems, gaps and ambiguities in the programs are becoming more evident.

Military, GI Bill, higher education, veterans

There has been a steadily growing presence of veterans on college and university campuses. One estimate from the Veterans Affairs Administration estimates that:

“In 2013, over 1,000,000 student Veterans are using their GI benefits to pursue advanced educational opportunities, and this number is estimated to increase by 20% in the next few years.”

The GI Bill is a registered trademark of the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It encompasses any Department of Veterans Affairs educational benefit that applies to members of Active Duty, Selected Reserve and National Guard forces as well as their families. The goal of the program is to aid and facilitate the costs that accompany the goals of education or additional training.

The GI bill provides for various programs:

The Post-9/11 GI Bill

The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides up to 36 months of education benefits for individuals that served on active duty after Sept. 10, 2001. Eligibility criteria begins after serving for 90 consecutive days or 30 consecutive days in cases of honorable discharge. The benefits include tuition and fees, a monthly housing allowance, as well as a books and supplies stipend for up to $1,000 per year.

The Yellow Ribbon Program

This program allows institutions of higher education institutions the option to provide additional funding as part of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The program generally works on a matching basis wherein the institution contributes a specified amount and then the VA will match the contribution. The match is not to exceed 50% of the difference. Not all programs participate, so to receive the benefits you must be enrolled in an approved program.

The Montgomery GI Bill

The MGIB-Active Duty program provides education benefits to Veterans and Service members who have at least two years of active duty. Similar to the other programs those eligible may receive up to 36 months of education benefits.

The MGIB-Select Reserves program provides education and training benefits to eligible members of the Selected Reserve, including the Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve and Coast Guard Reserve, and the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard.


The Post 9/11 bill also allows service members the ability to transfer any unused educational benefits to their spouses and children. There are additional requirements for transferability. A service member must have at least six years of service and commit for an additional four years in order for the benefits to be transferrable to their spouse or child. This aspect of the program is determined by the Department of Defense.

However, for myriad reasons when it comes to negotiating higher education services, veterans have found it to be much more difficult to navigate compared to military life.

Article Takeaways

Good communicators, whether writers or speakers, who want their written or spoken/speech communication to be effective at all times must know how to avoid ambiguity at all times.

As more veterans pursue higher education, in order to aid in minimizing the costs incurred and complexities of navigating the system institutions should aim to be less ambiguous in their communication and offer more structure that aligns with better clarity of goals and access.

• Ambiguity in communication. Effective communication achieves success when the intended message or ideas is comprehensible to both parties. The person (or in this case, entity) trying to convey the message to the receiver should work to minimize ambiguity as much as humanly possible. Otherwise, the message or idea may likely increase the complexity and ultimately result in additional confusion.

• Lack of structure and specification in higher education. In a prior post I discussed the complexities of higher education debt and many of the same principles apply in the importance of competence and training of academic faculty and staff in veterans and student services.

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