“Military students are quickly realizing the advantages of online learning,” says Jim Sweizer, Vice President of Military Education for American Military University. “In the early part of the decade, the percentage of active-force students taking online or distance courses was 15 percent. Now, that percentage is 65 percent. It’s just incredible growth. It really speaks to the need for this type of learning.”
Military spouses can also benefit from online education programs. The flexibility, variety of program choices and the availability of financial support for degree programs mean that online learning has the potential to create a realm of educational possibilities for military families to reach their long-term academic goals even while their lives seem chaotic and unpredictable.
Four Ways Online Learning Benefits Military Families
- Flexibility – Online programs make it easy to complete courses even when moving from state-to-state and time-zone-to-time-zone. Because military families move, on the average, three times more frequently than non-military families (https://www.defense.gov/News/Special-Reports/0416) on-campus full-time courses are often not a relevant choice. Online learning allows a spouse or family member to access their coursework anywhere an Internet connection is available so that when the family moves from one station to another, the educational process is not interrupted.
- Variety of online programs available – Because the sky is pretty much the limit in terms of quantity and variety of available online courses, military families are limited only by the quality of the program they are interested in pursuing. Before making the decision as to which online school to choose, consider the following:
- Is the school you’re looking at fully accredited?
- What is the school’s long-term track record for awarding degrees, associate degrees or professional certifications?
- Will you be able to transfer credits earned while on assignment to other colleges and universities?
- Does the online school offer courses in your field of interest?
- Spouses are eligible for military-related financial support – Most reputable schools, colleges, and universities offer financial aid programs for military personnel and their spouses. The GI Bill funds numerous online programs and you should be cautious about any program that the GI Bill will not fund. Military spouses are also eligible for a yearly stipend to cover books and supplies.
- Military students and their spouses are eligible for a wide variety of scholarships, many of which include financing for online degree programs.
The great news is that the military will pay for an active duty soldier and/or their spouse to earn their degree online while they are still in the service. Manfred F. Meine, Professor of Public Administration at Troy University writes that “The way things are set up, almost any serviceperson should be able to get at least an associate degree while on active duty, because of the Military Tuition Assistance [program].”
Military Tuition Assistance (TA) is a Department of Defense program available to all active-duty military personnel, including soldiers and their spouses. The different branches of service in the U.S. offer sometimes varying assistance levels, but generally provide financial help for up to $250 per credit hour, maxing out at $4500 per year. If a soldier or his/her spouse use the TA program, it is possible for them to receive a free college degree online while they are still serving in the military. The idea is to use TA funds first, before tapping into GI Bill benefits. Military Tuition Assistance funds are basically free money and do not have to be paid back once a person’s active duty service is complete. (However, military officers must serve two years after completion of their last TA-funded online course or be required to pay back a portion or all of the cost of tuition.)
Because online learning can happen anywhere there is an available Internet connection, members of the military and their families and spouses are given the opportunity to accomplish academic success in the midst of an unpredictable lifestyle. By using a wide variety of scholarship and financial assistance opportunities, military personnel has the option of achieving their academic goals cost-and-stress-free.
For a listing of the top military-friendly online colleges, go to http://www.guidetoonlineschools.com/online-schools/military-friendly. For elementary, middle school and high school, online curriculum options visit www.globalstudentnetwork.com. To register for online high school, visit the fully-accredited International Virtual Learning Academy at www.internationalvla.com