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 used 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.