Tag Archives: education

FAQ Series: How the Interstate Compact affects school aged kids

kidsclassroomYou have questions, we have answers!

This week we respond to your frequently asked questions about the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, more commonly known as the Interstate Compact.

Q: What is the Interstate Compact?

A: The Interstate Compact is an agreement among states that allows for the uniform treatment of military children transferring between school districts and states. As of August, 2013 it has been adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia. It addresses issues that may affect military children as they move to a new school district, including enrollment, placement, and graduation requirements.

Q: Who is covered by the Interstate Compact?

A: The Interstate Compact covers children of active duty service members enrolled in grades K-12 in public school. Children of National Guard and Reservists are covered when the service member is in active duty status. Children of retirees are covered for one year following the service member’s retirement. Note that the Compact only applies to public schools. The Compact does not apply to private schools and does not address home schooling.

Q: My child is old enough to start kindergarten in our old location, but the new state has a different cut-off date. What can I do?

A: Under the Compact, if your child has enrolled in and attended kindergarten in your previous state, he should be allowed to continue kindergarten in your new state. However, this only applies if your child actually attended kindergarten. If your child was old enough for kindergarten in your previous location but you moved prior to the beginning of the school year, the new district is not required to allow him to start kindergarten.

Q: My child was receiving special education services at our old school. Will he continue to receive them at our new school?

A: The new school should provide comparable services based on your child’s current Individual Education Plan (IEP). This is required both by the Compact and by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The new school is permitted to evaluate the student later to ensure appropriate placement.

Q: We had to move midway through my child’s senior year. Will he graduate on time?

A: An important goal of the Compact is to ensure that students graduate on time, even when they have to move during their senior year. For this reason, the Compact states that districts should waive specific course requirements for seniors as long as similar course work has been completed. If a waiver is denied and there is no way to complete the required course work on time, arrangements should be made for the student to receive a diploma from the previous school district.

Q: I don’t feel as though my school is following the Interstate Compact. What can I do?

A: It’s not uncommon for teachers and administrators to be unfamiliar with the Interstate Compact. Your installation’s School Liaison Officer can help you work with the school to resolve any questions about how the Compact should be implemented. Each state also has a Compact Commissioner responsible for helping ensure that the Compact is adhered to.

Q: Where can I go for more information?

A: The Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission website includes FAQ’s and other resources, including printable and downloadable brochures for parents, teachers, and school administrators.

What is your family’s experience with the Interstate Compact? Share your story in the comments below!

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director

2013 FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s Military Spouse Fellows

accountant-womanThe job market for military spouses can be intimidating, and employment can be daunting. Especially when you know you won’t be in one spot for long. Portable careers are the most coveted among military spouses. One career that fits the portable bill is financial counseling.

In 2012, Forbes reported positions for financial advisors were one of the fastest careers in desperate need of talent. The Forbes report states, “The demand for financial advice is increasing as Baby Boomers approach retirement and seek help getting there.” The world of financial advisors is expected to grow at a rate of 32% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics; the average growth rate of all occupations is 14%.

This financial industry is an excellent option for military spouses. Thanks to Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education, military spouses have the chance to break into the industry by obtaining their accredited financial counseling certificate at no cost. In March of this year, the FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s Military Spouse Fellowship Program opened the application process, for the eighth straight year, for its class of 2013 military spouses. The FINRA Fellowship Program provides military spouse recipients with the education and training needed to earn the Accredited Financial Counselor® (AFC®) designation. Hundreds of military spouses applied for the program in 2013. Fifty military spouses throughout the U.S. and overseas have been awarded the FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s 2013 Military Spouse Fellowship.

Here are the 2013 FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s 2013 Military Spouse Fellows:

Karen Bond
TruVonda Boone
Ana Brown
Michelle Budzien
Lauren Chaplin
Tisha Curry
Katelynd Day
Kira Dentes
Kornkamol Diskul
Jessie Ellertson
Maria Firestone
Hyunhi Flot
Dawn Foster
Prece Fountain-Reid
Mari Fries
Patricia Geiger
Cynthia Giesecke
Adrianna Gonzalez
Sara Griffin
Olga Guy
Brynn Hanson
Julia Harris
Meredith Hathaway
Diana Hook
Katrina Horsley-Watts
Sabrina Johnson
Karin Knapp-Parham
Rebecca Lenard
Sarah Malufau
Michael Matheny
Emily McConnell
Sara Miller
Diana Mitsch
Meghan Northcutt
Uchenna Oranebo
Lucie Pak
Andrea Peck
Kia Plumber
April Postell
Angela Reyes-Hill
Angela Setering
Elaine Smith
Rebekah Strausheim
Sarah Tellefsen
Gideon Thomas
Whitney Thomas
Jennifer Trimble
Kelley VanDyke
Tuawana Williams-Jenkins
Valarie Young

An Army Wife’s Pursuit of Education OCONUS

Amanda-oakley2In November 2009, my husband and I set off for the adventure of a lifetime after he received orders to PCS to Baumholder, Germany! I was 23-years-old, a recent college graduate, and a newlywed. I was both excited and terrified. I had never lived outside of my home state of North Carolina, and other than moving to Raleigh, NC to complete my undergraduate studies at N.C. State University, I had never lived away from home. Baumholder was also my husband’s first permanent duty station.

It was easy for me to get lost in the excitement of moving to Germany and having the opportunity to travel Europe, however, when all of the excitement wore off, I realized that moving to Germany would mean limited career and educational opportunities for me. Unfortunately, it is common for military spouses to put their educational and career goals on the back burner while they support their spouse’s military career. I refused to let this be the case for me.

Upon arrival to Germany, I learned quickly that if I wanted to accomplish anything I had to be proactive and try to figure out my questions on my own. OCONUS (Outside the Continental United States) duty stations are a different world from stateside duty stations, especially if you have little knowledge about how the Army operates. Prior to moving to Germany, I knew I wanted to attend graduate school. When I found out that I would be moving overseas, I figured I would have to put going to graduate school on hold or live apart from my husband while completing a graduate program stateside.

Thanks to a fellow Army spouse, I learned about the education center on base. The representatives at the education center were so helpful and friendly, and just what I needed after ending up at so many dead ends with my school search. After receiving a wealth of information about educational opportunities for spouses in Germany and giving it a lot of thought, I applied to a program that would allow me to complete my Master’s while living in Europe. I was filled with excitement when I received an acceptance letter to the program, and beginning in January 2010, I was on my way to a Master’s degree!

While I was completing my graduate degree, I also held three part-time jobs. I worked as a childcare provider for two different military families in the area and as an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) tutor for one military family that had a child with Autism. I felt it was important to provide some financial support to our family and do something that helped further my career. So much of my life revolved around my husband’s career, I needed something to call my own and to help me find my own identity without getting lost in his.

amanda-oakley

I reached my last year of graduate school in 2011, which brought new and exciting challenges for me. I was extremely sad and worried, but I did what any military spouse would do: I wiped off the tears and toughened up! In February, my husband left for his first deployment to Afghanistan. I decided to move back to NC during the deployment, to surround myself with family and work while continuing my education. I think staying busy with work and school was the best distraction I could have had. Before I knew it, the deployment was over and I was on my way back to Germany to welcome my husband home.

The next month, I began my internship at Baumholder Middle-High School. I was in the home stretch! I worked hard as a school counseling intern and in my final graduate school class. I enjoyed assisting the military students and it felt good to be back “home” with the military community. I learned a lot during my internship and received many opportunities to practice my counseling skills.

In May 2012, I received my graduate degree and walked across the stage during graduation in Heidelberg, Germany along with fellow military spouses, military personnel, and civilians. I had completed a Master’s degree, all while getting accustomed to the military lifestyle, living in Germany, and surviving my husband’s first deployment. What an awesome feeling!

Currently, I am working on a post-graduate certificate in behavior analysis. I have decided to become a certified behavior therapist and pursue a career as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Someone once told me that military spouses will never be able to have a career due to the frequent moves and limited opportunities at many military bases. By being proactive and making strides to continue my education and begin my career, I have been able overcome the obstacles and be a strong military spouse at the same time!

amanda-oakley-headshotBy Amanda Oakley, Joanne Holbrook Patton Scholarship Recipient

Military Student Loan Forgiveness: What to do with your student loans?

Soldier-StudentMilitary families may rely on a variety of financial aid packages to help afford a higher education; including scholarships, grants, and loans. If your service member has federal loans, he or she will want explore the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.

The PSLF is a program for federal student loan borrowers who work in a range of public service jobs, including military service. The program forgives remaining debt after 10 years of eligible employment and qualifying loan payments.  In most cases eligibility is based on whether you work for an eligible employer. Your job is eligible if you:

• are employed by any nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3)organization
• are employed by the federal government, a state government, local government, or tribal government (this includes the military and public schools and colleges); or
• serve in a full-time AmeriCorps or Peace Corps position.

PSLF applies to federal Stafford, Grad Plus, or consolidation loans as long as they are in the Direct Loan Program.  Borrowers with Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) loans must switch to the Direct Loan program to participate in this benefit.

In order to qualify for loan forgiveness the borrower must make 10 years (or 120 monthly payments) after October 1, 2007. Qualifying payments are made through the Direct Loan program. To count, the payments must be made while working full-time in an eligible job. “Full-time” means 30 hours per week or the standard for full-time used by the employer, whichever is greater. If your service member meets all of the eligibility criteria the earliest the remaining debt could be forgiven under the program is October 2017.

With advanced planning, the PSLF is another tool your family can use to help make higher education affordable. Since federal student loan interest rates reset each July , now is a good time to explore the PSLF program to see if it is right for you and your family.

KatieBy Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse Scholarship recipients for 2013

shutterstock_1722702The checks are out the door and the classes are being scheduled! The military spouse scholarships recipients from 2013 are busy planning, prepping and furthering their education. In 2013, the National Military Family Association spouse scholarship program awarded $274,500 to 254 military spouses. Our scholarship recipients are all military spouses representing the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. Some are spouses of wounded veterans, some are surviving spouses, and others are spouses of active duty service members, guardsmen, or reservists.

The Association is honored to recognize and award military spouses and assist in giving them an opportunity to reach their educational goals.  As one spouse puts it, “Military families face unique challenges regarding education, I personally moved from one city to another and began to piece together our lives in a new area, as well as put together educational plans for myself.”

Along with the general scholarships awarded to spouses seeking higher education, this year marks the first year we offered scholarships to students seeking a mental health career. To qualify for our Mental Health Career scholarship the applicants must have completed, at a minimum, a Master’s Degree in Psychology, Psychiatry, Counseling or Social Work, and need to be seeking clinical supervision hours as a requirement for their clinical licensure.

More than 70 applicants have applied for the Mental Health Career scholarship, which has remained open as we build our support efforts within the Mental Health field. Many of the spouses seeking a career in Mental Health have expressed intentions of paying it forward to the military community by using their education and experiences to counsel military families. “Without a doubt, this scholarship will play a key role in helping me reach my career goal of serving wounded warriors and their families as a licensed clinical psychologist.”

See what other spouses are saying about the benefit of these scholarships in their lives.

The National Military Family Association recognizes and thanks all the sponsors who help make the Joanne Holbrook Patton Military Spouse scholarships possible. Thank you to Fisher House Foundation, BNY Mellon, May & Stanley Smith Charitable Trust, Lockheed Martin, Fluor, Health Net Federal Services, US Family Health Plan, ASMBA Star, General Dynamics, Phillip & Gayle Staton, George Russell, and many more for the generous donations!

If you are interested in applying for or receiving notice of spouse scholarships and other education opportunities, visit our website and sign up for eNewsletters and eNotices!

We are proud to support all of our military spouse scholarship recipients and their educational and career aspirations. The recipients for 2013 are:

Abby Sims
Aislinn Deely
Alena Barosa
Alexann Masiko-Meyer
Alison Portis
Alita Baggett
Allison Hagan
Allison Burnett
Allison Murphy
Alyssa Stiles
Amanda Todd
Amanda Adams
Amanda Deal
Amanda Oakley
Amanda Walker (Jones)
Amber McCart
Ameye Carpenter
Amy Creason
Amy Dituri
Amy Fuhs
Amy Muir
Ana Karina Chavez
Angela Farr
Angelia Dittmeier
Angelina Plater
Angelina Suarez-Popplewell
Anna Eklund
April Abreu
Ashley Wallis
Ashley Fielder
Ashley Haynes
Ashley Louie
Astrid Santini
Barbara Blackford
Barbara Toscano
Beatriz Giraldo
Bianca Strzalkowski
Blanca Alejandra Svensson
Brenda Valdez
Brittany Curtis
Brittany Taylor
Brittany Thompson
Bukola Olatunji
Callista Tkacs
Carmelita Taylor
Carmen Johnson
Carmen Waga
Carolina Johnsen
Carolyn Blumenfeld
Carrie Scheib
Cassandra Flowers
Cassandra Turner
Catherine McGuire
Catherine Schopp
Cathy St. Julien
Celena Janton
Celia Nilson
Celine Texier-Rose
Charlotte Stewart
Chelsea Watkins
Cheryl Moore
Christin Hall
Christina Webb
Christina Wheeler
Christine Bessler
Corinne Blake
Courtney Harrison
Courtney Johnson
Cristina Vera
Csilla Lyerly
Cynthia McQuarrie
Dana Thompson
Danielle Allison
Danielle Hochrine
Dawn Hall
Deborah Ellis
Debra Milstein
Denise Gil-Perez
Diane Porter
Donnice Roberts
Elizabeth Bull
Elizabeth Jennings
Elizabeth Spatz
Elizabeth Walters
Emily Flaming
Erica Bryant
Erin Lamb
Erin Stock
Faith Hess
Frances Karnuth
Frances Sharp
Gerivonni Darden
Gina Xavier
Gordon Azeb
Guadalupe Gonzalez
Hanna Sauer
Heather Pahman
Heather Pell
Jacquelyn Barnes
Jamie Womble
Janee Zimmerman
Jayme McArthur
Jayme Bering
Jennefer Walden
Jennifer Kyte
Jennifer Mashburn
Jessica Olivarez
Jessica Byrd
Jessica Dunn
Jessica Fikes
Jessica Fountain-Bowlus
Jessica Yost
Jill Hendrickson
Johanna Gomez
Joyce Lindsey
Joyce Vang
Judy Stine
Julie DeLeon
Kaitlin Orcutt
Kamilia Seay
Karen Caverly Molineaux
Katherina Kirby
Katherine Anders
Katherine Cole
Katherine Phillips
Kathleen Whittle
Kathryn Curry
Kathryn McDevitt
Katie Hill
Katrina Zilberman
Kelley Jeans
Kelly Fennell
Kelly Gress
Kelvin Telesford
Khali Koetting
Kiley Spicocchi
Kimberley Marcopul
Kimberley Wildman
Kimberly Dong
Kourtney Johnson
Krista Nielson
Kristi Stauffer
Kristin Grimes
Kristin Tubbs
Laura Watson
Laurel Wood
Lauren Martin
Lauren Sims
Leah Coppo
Leah Eischen
Leah Roberts
Leofe Douglas
Lianna Bodine
Linda Maldonato
Lisa Lamar
Loubna Bouna
Luella Cook
Makeeka Harris
Mallory Galbreath
Margaret Trimble
Mariah Armenta
Marie Brown
Marion Hudson
Marleen Cook
MarQuita Banks
Mary Beth Ratzlaff
Mary Malone
Maureen Skinner
Megan Zimmerman
Megan Mayo
Meghan Fields
Megumi Fuda
Melanie Stone
Melinda Gabriel
Melissa Spurling
Melissa Wilkerson
Michael Crowley
Michael Moberley
Michelle Jackson
Michelle Krupa
Mina Petrosino
Nancy Barnes
Nanyail Smoke
Naomi Lorence
Natalie Purdy
Neah Velasquez
Nicholle McLochlin
Nicole Brackins
Nicole Parker
Nicole Berliner
Nikita Casanova
Nikki Brown
Patricia Burnette
Patricia Carreno
Patricia McCurdy
Phyllis Adams-Pickett
Rachel Jacobs
Rachel Selph
Rachelle Vaughn
Rebecca Letterman
Rebecca Royer
Rebecca Scott
Rebecca Tay
Reina Zuniga
Rhonda Lucas
Rhonda Maynard
Robert West
Robin Soifer
Rochelle Sosa
Sabita Walkup
Sally Windisch
Sandy Cullins
Sara Seemayer
Sarah Dryer
Sarah Goodman
Sarah Jackson
Sarah Milo
Sarah Staggs
Sefra Perkins
Shalee Torrence
Shari Williams
Shawna Dennison
Shelby Rose
Shenae Whitehead
Sherika Hite-Feast
Sherry Matis
Shirley Chitjian
Sofie Castacio
Sonja Harris
Stacey Helman
Staci Chiomento
Stephanie Dannan
Stephanie Foehl
Stephanie Lee
Stephanie Olson
Susan Hampton
Susan Hernandez
Tabitha Thompson
Talia Clate
Tamika Montgomery
Tammy Wilson
Tana Kornachuk
Taryn Allen
Tatyana Peterson
Tiffany Herndon
Tilma Cruz
Tina Anderson
Tina Johnson
Tonya Murray
Tracy LaBreck
Veronica Jones-Felton
Veronica Joseph
Wendy Linehan
Whitney Harrison

allieBy Allie Jones, Military Spouse Scholarship Program Coordinator

Update: Military Spouse Employment and Education Advocacy

military spouse education and employmentAs an Association, one of our top priorities is to ensure that military spouses are able to pursue their education and continue professional career development that works with the military lifestyle.

We highlighted these priorities in our testimony that was submitted for the record on April 17 to the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Military Personnel, and asked Congress to take steps to support military spouses in their pursuit of personal and professional growth.

Here’s what we covered in our testimony regarding military spouse employment and education initiatives:

  • Collaborative work between the three Department of Defense Spouse Education and Career Opportunity (SECO) program components to include the Military Spouse Career Center at Military OneSource, Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP), and My Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA) Program
  • The reinstatement of the MyCAA program to include all military spouses regardless of the service member’s rank
  • The extension of the MyCAA program to spouses of the Coast Guard, the Commissioned Corps of NOAA, and the U.S. Public Health Service
  • Expansion of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit for employers who hire military spouses
  • A tax credit to military spouses to offset the cost of obtaining a new license or credential when the service member is relocated to a new duty station
  • Reciprocity of professional licenses or alternative license arrangements across state lines

For the latest information on our advocacy efforts and support for military spouse employment and education initiatives, please visit our website’s policy issues section or subscribe to Military Family Topics to have updates delivered to your inbox.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date with the latest news concerning military families and tell us what you’re seeing in your community.

ccPosted by Christine Gallagher, Government Relations Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association

Don’t break the bank: Financial resources for college-bound military kids

Don't break the bank: financial resources for college-bound military kidsSpring is the time of year high school seniors anticipate college acceptance letters and parents discuss how to pay the hefty tuition bill. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, for the 2010 – 2011 academic year the annual price for undergraduate tuition, room, and board were estimated as follows:

    • $13,000 at public colleges
  • $36,300 at private not-for-profit colleges
  • $23,5000 at private for-profit colleges

Yikes! That is quite a bit of money for one year of post-secondary education. Thankfully, military kids are eligible for unique funding opportunities:

In-State Tuition: Dependent children of service members on active duty for a period of more than 30 days are eligible to receive in-state tuition at public colleges and universities in the state where the service member is permanently stationed. This does not mean a military kid is eligible to receive in-state tuition rates in all 50 states, but rather the state where the family is stationed. Once the child is enrolled and paying in-state tuition rates, the child remains eligible for the in-state rate even if the service member receives orders and relocates out of state.

Post-9/11 Transferability: Active duty service members with 10 years of service may be eligible to transfer their Post-9/11 GI bill to a child.

Scholarships for Military Kids: Several organizations have scholarship opportunities for military kids. Below is a selection of opportunities. College-bound military kids are encouraged to review specific eligibility requirements and deadlines, especially as some deadlines are quickly approaching:

College-bound military kids are also eligible for the same federal financial aid opportunities as other students including:

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): The FAFSA is the required application from the Department of Education to determine eligibility for any form of federal financial aid.

Federal Grants:

  • Federal Pell Grant: A Federal Pell Grant, unlike a loan, does not have to be repaid. Typically, Pell Grants are awarded only to undergraduate students who have not earned a bachelor’s or a professional degree.
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) Program: The FSEOG Program provides need-based grants to help low-income undergraduate students finance the costs of postsecondary education. Priority is given to those who are also Federal Pell Grant recipients.

Federal Loans:

  • Direct Stafford Loans (Subsidized and Unsubsidized): Direct Stafford Loans are low-interest loans for eligible students to help cover the cost of higher education at a four-year college or university, community college, or trade, career, or technical school.
  • Direct PLUS Loans: Parents of dependent students may apply for a Direct PLUS Loan to help pay their child’s education expenses as long as certain eligibility requirements are met. Graduate and professional students may apply for PLUS Loans for their own expenses.
  • Federal Perkins Loans: A Federal Perkins Loan is a low-interest loan for both undergraduate and graduate students with exceptional financial need. This is a school-based loan program.

Federal Work-Study (FWS): The FWS allows students to earn money by working at a subsidized job, usually on the college campus.

Be sure to explore these resources to reduce your out-of-pocket costs. What other resources would you share with college-bound military kids?

katiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager at the National Military Family Association

Helping military kids transition: the role schools and educators play

Helping military kids transition: the role schools and educators playEvery military family knows that moving is just a fact of life. My own family has moved more times than I care to count and my children, who are now 14 and 12, attended two preschools and five elementary schools. Being the new kid in school is normal for them, and like most military kids they have handled our moves smoothly – more smoothly than I have, in fact! Still, as a parent, it’s hard not to worry about the effects of so much change.

Military parents do their best to make moving as painless as possible for their children, but schools have a vital role to play as well. I know from personal experience that the new school can make a huge difference during those first days and weeks. After our last move, a greeter at the front door of the elementary school recognized immediately that my daughter was a new student and welcomed her with a warm smile and big hug on her first day. Her new classroom teacher matched her with a buddy to help show her around the school and sit with her at lunch. She came home all smiles and within a few short weeks it was as if she had never gone to school anywhere else.

Sadly, though, our good experience is not universal. Unless schools take steps to ease the transition for students as they move in and out, it can be difficult for highly mobile kids to fit in – and sooner or later, their grades will start to suffer. Knowing this, I have been excited to hear more about steps that teachers, administrators, and even our Nation’s leaders are taking to help our military kids. Last year, the Obama Administration, the Military Child Education Coalition, and the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education launched Operation Educate the Educators, an effort to get colleges and universities to include information on the challenges faced by military children in their teacher education programs. More than 100 higher education institutions are already participating.

Probably no school system has more experience with transitioning students than the Department of Defense Educational Activity (DoDEA). DoDEA teachers and staff are used to highly mobile students and treat transition as a normal part of life. They have developed routines to welcome new students and – just as importantly – say goodbye to children who are preparing to move away.

Some public schools with a high concentration of military kids have followed DoDEA’s example and adopted innovative strategies to help students transition. Schools can create newcomers’ clubs or match new children with a buddy. Other schools have gone even further and set up transition rooms, a type of welcome center for new families. There they can learn about school activities, community resources, receive a tour, fill out questionnaires about their needs and situation, and meet other parents and students. Another good idea is to appoint one staffer as a “transition specialist,” who can greet families when they arrive to register, keep track of whether new students are making friends, help students cope with a new set of school rules, and answer parents’ questions.

Moving is always going to be part of life in the military, but transitions don’t have to negatively affect our kids’ experience in school. Check out our Military Kids Toolkit section on Transition for more ideas to help make your child’s move a little bit easier.

What do you think schools should do to help military children transition? What has worked for you and your family? Share your experiences below.

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association

Military families: did you know you can take a free college or language course online?

Military spouses: take a college course or learn a language online, for free!Military families face tough decisions when selecting a higher education program. Location, scholarships, standardized tests, getting accepted, and selecting the right program are just a few reasons to postpone taking the step.

The good news is that now military families everywhere, and anybody else interested, can enjoy free courses by professors at renowned universities across the United States. Harvard, Colombia, UCLA, Duke, Princeton, and Stanford are just a few of the universities accessible to all students.

The courses are available through online platforms where prospective students enroll by simply creating a login and joining a class, absolutely free. One of the top websites for free education, and my personal favorite, is Coursera. There is a wide variety of classes, ranging from computer sciences and finance to healthcare and entrepreneurship.

Once you join a class, you have access to the video lectures posted by the professors, weekly assignments and quizzes. You can also join discussion forums and even meet fellow students living in your area. Courses can last anywhere between two to 12 weeks and students can enroll in as many courses as they feel comfortable. There are always new courses that open up and with more than 300 courses to choose from, you cannot miss a class that you like.

Apart from being free, another important benefit is that you can take them at your own convenience. All you need is a computer and an internet connection and you can take the classes from virtually anywhere in the world, 24/7. While these courses are not accredited by the respective universities, upon successful completion of a course, students will receive a certificate signed by the professor. This certificate can be a great addition to your resume and enhance your educational and professional development.

Another website for free education is Udacity. The website was created by Stanford professionals and only offers courses in science- and math-related topics. One highlight of the classes offered is that they are free of deadlines and quizzes.

A third option is Open Culture. This is a cultural and educational media with an impressive collection of over 400 courses. Plus, students can watch free classic movies.

For those that would like to learn a foreign language for free, Memrise might just be the perfect option. Memrise offers access to a variety of languages including sign language, and various other education topics.

No matter which site you choose, you have the opportunity to discover the course of study you want to pursue absolutely free. In addition to broadening your horizons and gaining knowledge on a topic, the achievement certificate you receive upon successful completion of some courses can turn out to be a useful tool when searching for a job. Be sure to visit the Spouse Education section of our website for more information on pursuing your education goals.

What courses will you enroll in this week?

Marlis Perez RiveraPosted by Marlis Perez Rivera, Volunteer with the National Military Family Association

Tips for using the Post-9/11 GI Bill: get ready for some paperwork!

Tips for using the Post-9/11 GI BillOne of the key factors to pursing your educational goals is to decide how you will pay for your education. Military spouses have several opportunities to help offset the cost of school, including private scholarship programs, federal loans and grants, MyCAA, and transferability of the Post-9/11 GI bill.

When I decided to pursue a graduate degree, my active duty service member decided to transfer a portion of his Post-9/11 GI bill to me. As of August 1, 2009, service members who have served in the Armed Forces for six years and agree to serve an additional four years, are eligible to transfer their benefit to a spouse. My spouse was eligible to receive 100% of this benefit. In my situation, the benefit pays full tuition and fees directly to the public in-state school I attend. I also receive a yearly book stipend of up to $1,000, prorated based on the number of credits I take. I am not eligible to receive a monthly housing allowance because I’m using the benefit while my husband is on active duty and he currently receives a housing allowance for our family. (Private school tuition and fees are capped at a national maximum rate. For the 2012 – 2013 academic year the private school cap is $18,077.50.) But these are my circumstances – how can you make the Post-9/11 GI Bill work for you?

Transferring the Post-9/11 GI bill takes time. Be prepared to work with your spouse to complete quite a bit of paperwork. While your spouse is on active duty, he or she may apply to transfer their benefit to a spouse, child, or children. Your spouse must submit a Transfer Educational Benefit request for Service approval. This may take several weeks to process. Once approved, the family member using the transferred benefit must apply to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)  by using form 22-1990e found on the Veterans On-Line Application (VONAPP) website. The VONAPP website is a bit clunky to use. After you create a username and password, you’ll need several important pieces of information to complete this form including: your educational history, name, address, degree program for the school you’ve selected, and bank account information (for direct deposit for the book stipend and/or living allowance).

I waited (patiently) for about five weeks before I received a “certificate of eligibility.” At the same time my husband received a letter notifying him that the VA had received the Transfer of Entitlement (TOE) application and that by applying for TOE he revoked his eligibility for other GI bill programs, such as the Montgomery GI Bill.

I then submitted a copy of my certificate of eligibility to my school’s VA-certifying official. Next, I registered for classes and then the VA-certifying official certified my enrollment with the VA. Certifying enrollment was about a four week process. Your school will only receive funds after your enrollment (which really means registration) has been certified. You may have fees added to your account if you do not pay your tuition by the tuition due date. My school was familiar with the VA’s process and waived all extra fees on my account.

I did drop one class during the add-drop period. Even though I was within my school’s add-drop period, the VA had already sent my tuition to the school based on the classes I was registered to take. About six weeks after my semester started I received a letter from the VA stating they had overpaid my benefits and I was now responsible for the debt. I sent this letter to my school’s VA-certifying official and my school will send the funds back to the VA. If there is an over-payment  you are responsible to repay this debt to the VA.

My tips for effective use of the Post-9/11 GI bill are:

  • Apply for the benefit early – it takes several weeks to process.
  • Bookmark the www.gibill.va.gov website. Contact information and the FAQ section are especially helpful.
  • Get to know your school’s VA-certifying official (your school may have a designated VA office).

The ability to transfer the Post-9/11 GI bill has afforded me the opportunity to attend school. I plan to be a good steward of this benefit and am looking forward (in the distant future) to completing my Master’s degree!

Are you using the Post-9/11 GI bill? What advice would you give to military families on how best to use this benefit?


Keep in mind that rules are not the same when transferring a benefit to a spouse vs. to a child. Please see www.gibill.va.gov for official information and details specific to your situation.

katiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager at the National Military Family Association and USC Sol Price MPA candidate