Op-ed: Navy veterans need more support planning for college

An opinion piece in Navy Times urges the Navy to help enlisted sailors plan their “post-service educational journeys well in advance,” asserting that “the current system…is not structured to support them after they leave the service.” The author, Lt. Andrea N. Goldstein, U.S. Navy Reserve, is a veteran and the CEO of Service to School, a non-profit organization that provides free college application counseling to military veterans.

The importance of higher education to veteran success

The Post-9/11 GI Bill, signed in 2008, provides up to 36 months of education benefits to veterans for approved programs. According to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, 53 percent of student veterans list educational benefits among their top motivations for entering military service. The higher degree a veteran obtains, the higher their earnings rise and the lower their unemployment rate falls. Among student veterans, 27 percent use their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit to earn associate degrees, 10 percent to earn certificates, 43 percent to earn bachelor degrees, and 20 percent to earn graduate degrees.

Gaps in the Navy-to-civilian student transition

Yet, Lt. Goldstein writes, the “Navy College Office is configured primarily for sailors to obtain credits and a degree for advancement within the service” and does not include training on how to apply for college as part of the transition process at the end of Navy careers.

She laments how many service members fall prey to predatory, for-profit colleges that have low graduation rates and often leave students with debt and non-transferable credits. According to Lt. Goldstein, the Navy College Office treats all colleges the same, regardless of their track record. Ultimately, this lack of college coaching leaves more than 60 percent of potential first-generation college student-service members without a clear path to and through college.

A call for government action and higher education support

Lt. Goldstein points to nonprofits like her own as one way to help veterans plan their transitions into education but also calls on the Navy to better prepare sailors for higher education well before the end of their Navy careers.

To learn more about Georgetown University’s commitment to veteran student success, visit the Veterans Office home page.

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