State of Women Veterans: Women Veterans more likely to complete a degree with VA education benefits



Like many people, I had educational goals that I wanted to accomplish in pursuit of my life’s mission. And like many people who come from humble beginnings, I had to figure out how I would pay for it. The lure of being able to further my education was one of the factors that drove me to serve in the military.

I already had a bachelor’s degree, but financing graduate school seemed completely out of reach. Using my Montgomery GI Bill benefits, I was able to accomplish my goal, graduating with a master’s degree in international relations from American University in 2008 – without any student loans. Walking across the stage with my family watching from the audience was one of the proudest moments of my life; I had worked tremendously hard to earn that degree.

That life-changing experience made me an early supporter of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. College can be expensive. Like many Veterans, I had to work full-time while going to school. The Post-9/11 GI Bill dramatically increased benefits for eligible Veterans, covering the cost of resident tuition and fees at public schools as well as providing a housing allowance and a stipend for books and supplies. Through the Yellow Ribbon Program, many private schools also make additional funds available.

To date, more than 247,000 women Veterans have image of Kayla Williams graduating from American Universityused more than $4.8 billion in benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill since its inception. For women like Natasha, it “changed everything” – watch her story in the video above.

Research shows that women Veterans are more likely to complete degree programs than either men who are Veterans or women who are traditional students (56 percent, 46 percent, and 51 percent respectively, according to data analyzed for the 2015 Veteran Economic Opportunity Report). Our higher educational attainment may be one of the reasons we’re more likely than either of those groups to work in management and professional occupations and have significantly higher median household incomes than women who never served.

You can learn more about VA education benefits and how to apply for them on ExploreVA. Not sure what program is best? You can use the chart on this page to determine the right benefit for you and the GI Bill Comparison Tool to research schools and employers, based on affordability and value. If you have a service-connected disability, see how you may qualify for VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program.

Accomplishing your educational goals may “change everything” for you and those you love, too.  I encourage you to learn more about what is available to help you move in that direction.

This is the tenth blog in an 11-week series on the State of Women Veterans. Visit the campaign page to read other entries.


 

Author

Kayla Williams

– Kayla Williams is the director of VA’s Center for Women Veterans.

Comments

  1. Retired Female Vet    

    The VA still has problems accepting that women have served this country and have earned the title of Veteran. The picture under this heading is the most blatant evidence yet.

  2. Peggy Fox    

    My husband and I both completed college using GI Bill. He actually went on to get a master’s after he retired that was paid by the Vietnam era GI Bill. I became a nurse and am working for the VA. The irony is I can’t be treated at the VA because there was no conflict during the time I served.

  3. Christopher Robert Bagwell    

    These are all fabulous comments by many Patrons, but as usual, I continue to notice that everyone is avoiding the elephant in the room. What about the National Guard Patrons, who honorably served in Iraq and Afghanistan, since 911. We did not have the same level of financial support. Many of us were in our 30s & 40s, with interrupted careers, that continued to be interrupted for 10 years or more, and we are now in our 40s & 50s.I am one of the Veterans. I served in the Army National Guard, since 1994. Escaped the hardships of poverty, (related to my Single-Parent Vietnam Veteran), by getting away from drug addicted Uncles & Neighbors, who were my mentors as a child, (regardless of the fact that I had the 3rd highest PSAT score of over 3000 8th graders, & was on the honor roll from the 2nd grade to the 7th grade). I dropped out of high school to escape the peer pressure, and social profiling that came with a person of my father’s stature, but I did take my GED, (scored 80-90% in every category as compared to Seniors graduating). The year was 1989. I went on to work 60-80 hours per week, (like my father did for over 20 years), until I saw the Gulf War in 1991. Followed in 1992, by the Presidential election of Bill Clinton, I remember hearing about the Defense budget reduction plans, and in 1994 the 1st ever College Financial assistance programs made available, was legislated for people within my home state, was those born after 1980, (I was born in 1972). Furthermore, there was legislation passed reducing retirement benefits & education benefits for Military & DOD Federal Employees, but I joined the National Guard later that same year. Now, many would tell you I could’ve went into active duty, after I attended Basic Training & AIT, (especially since I just missed Honor Grad in 1995, with a come from behind overall top score in my class), but binge drinking was still a military cultural issue at the time, and I was an AA member, with 3 years sobriety at the time. So, I attempted to use my drill pay, and the greatly reduced Montgomery GI Bill, (even more reduced for Reservists) and after I served a year on ADSW, in support of the Atlanta Olympics Games of 1996, I passed the entrance exams, (tested cognitive at the college entry level), an enrolled into Devry Institute as I worked full time for a NASA contract corporation. However, my mentally challenged older brother began bringing addicts over to my Aunt’s house I was renting,( her & my Mom decided to get involved with his life again, after he finally was approved for disability, so they decided to attempt to get the house refinanced to him), and temptation forced its way into my life again, but I refused to give-up. I moved to Wisconsin. I was staying in touch with a nice young woman from there by phone, off and on for 9 years, (she was the best friend of my 1st High school girlfriend, and she kept putting her up to it, I might add, this was before the internet took off), and so we moved into together. I proposed to her just under a 9 moths later, and to pay for the wedding, I got my CDL, and put college on hold. It was September, 1999. We married a year later, and I finished my National Guard Enlistment 3 Months later, but I decided to reenlist a year, as part of my 2 year RR requirement. I decided school wasn’t going to happen, but if I bought my own Semi-Truck, there would be enough money to get a house, and start having kids. I was living the American Dream. Then, in the summer of 2001, I was approached by my NCOIC, that I could get sent to Recovery School, ( I had just got Honor Grad recognition from a reclassification MOS school), if I would go ahead and sign up for one more year, (naturally he pointed out I would finish my RR requirement after the additional year, but I knew he wanted to keep me around due to the difficulties of keeping a decent worker within the motor pool, due to the training reduction programs effected by budget cuts throughout the 90s). So I took the two week course, in place of phase 2 reclassification, & got rescheduled for phase 2 in September, (you must understand this type of funding from WI Dept of Military Affairs was rare). Well, we all know what happened during September, as for me, I was at the school, (of all places), on 911th, at Ft Indian Town Gap, PA, (approximately 50 miles from where the heroic takeover of flight 93, and the air base with the sole responsibility of being the reactionary force to protect Washington DC if need be). I went home a week after the incident, (as the Honor Grad again), and my NCOIC got with me the following drill, to tell me about an opportunity to apply for the technician program. What was I to do. The tech program is a good paying program, but with a catch, you could only get the job, for as long as you remain a member of the National Guard. (I was preparing to by my 1st Semi-truck; I was about to be my own boss.) There was one thing, I a man at 29, was within a rare age group of people, due to the 1990 budget cuts, and as I looked around at the younger faces showing up all over the place, after 911, I knew what I had to do. I did the honorable thing to do. However, I never thought it was going to take 10 years, that the younger troops would receive better training than I did, that regardless of the fact that I always had weight and tape issues, that I would go on to be field promoted without B-NOC, pulled out of the motor pool to be a convoy commander in Iraq in 2006, and then be kept around Kuwait an additional year, to help the DOD with the embezzlement problems going on at Camp Arifjan, inside the DOL, (I was inspecting at the rank of Warrant Officer duties, but I was barely an E6, and only had E5 training). These are all things that could only occur during war, with soldiers who reflect unusually high adaptive and cognitive skills and abilities. Well, I did go back to college before 2006, in fact I was rocking a 4.0 GPA, and it only dropped to a 3.8 while I was in Kuwait in 2008, due to class scheduling interfering with my inspection & DOL duties. Then I went home in 2008. The Nation just went into a recession, I was a new father, with a 6 month old son, and I began to receive additional political pressure over my weight, as I began to miss the PT run by 30 seconds, after the scoring program had changed for the 3rd time at that point in my 14 year career. My 3 year old daughter began to regress in school. My wife lost her job. Congress couldn’t decide what to do about the soldiers anymore because they had to come up with economic recovery programs. So, I did what I do best, adapt in an attempt to overcome. Needing to replace my wife’s income, (still messed-up in the head from combat, but unwilling to admit it to myself, that I didn’t want to be around people anymore), My wife and I went “all-in”. I dropped out of college, bought a semi-truck with our retirement/severance,( since veterans were not getting hired), went over the road, (which meant staying away for weeks at a time), and discovered the hard way, that the new emission system mandated by congress for commercial vehicles, not only don’t work, but are not cost effective to stay in business. So here I am, waiting for my truck to get out of some stranger’s shop, (for the umpteenth time), unemployed for months, (for the umpteenth time), and after spending an additional $40,000.00 over projected business expenses, (at least I don’t owe income taxes after deductions), I’m about to lose the house, and file bankruptcy, at the age of 44, with no available financial assistance. Maybe I would’ve been better off just staying a drug addict, when I was a teenager after all.

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