10/4/2011 12:00 AM
COLLEGE STATION - Changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits program of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which went into effect Oct. 1, are expected to increase the number of veterans who enroll in the VA education benefit programs offered by the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX). The Post-9/11 GI Bill now allows veterans to use their education benefits at non-college degree-granting schools such as TEEX.
“We’ve definitely seen an increase in interest as my phone calls from prospective customers have tripled,” said Steven Robinson, TEEX’s Veterans Liaison Officer. “Because of the growing interest in TEEX training programs, we are working to get additional courses approved by the VA.”
The VA has estimated that non-college degree schools may see a 10-15 percent increase in enrollment under the Post-9/11 GI Bill education program, added Robinson, who assists veterans who wish to enroll in TEEX courses using their VA education benefits.
TEEX also accepts the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) Chapter 30 education benefits. However, one advantage to veterans eligible for the Post-9/11 education benefits is that they do not have to pay their course tuition up front and then apply for reimbursement, as they did under the MGIB. Under the Post-9/11 benefit, the VA pays the tuition and fees directly to the school, based upon the approved benefit level of the veteran. In addition, the veteran may qualify for a monthly housing allowance and book and supplies stipend.
“One of the advantages of TEEX is that a veteran can receive training to obtain a certification to begin work at a job quicker than they would through a two- or four-year college program,” Robinson said. “This makes many of our programs attractive to veterans who are looking to get their training done so they can start earning money and taking care of their families as soon as possible.”
Many TEEX VA education benefit programs train people for careers in public service, such as firefighters, law enforcement officers and emergency medical technicians. Health and safety officials and unexploded ordnance technicians are other popular programs for veterans. “There is a growing need for people in these fields, and TEEX can help fill these positions with veterans. Also, some veterans have military experience that can carry over to careers in these fields,” said Robinson, who serves on the executive board of the Western Association of Veteran Education Specialists (WAVES).
The Texas A&M University System is reaching out to veterans who wish to use their education benefits to pursue additional training or college degrees. Robinson and Mark Posada attended the Military Friendly Symposium last week at Texas A&M University – Central Texas in Killeen. In the past two years, the A&M System has more than doubled its enrollment of veterans and dependents to more than 6,200 students. In July, the A&M System created a new Veterans Support Office to coordinate and enhance its services to veterans in the system and around the state.
“All of the A&M System members are seeking ways to assist our veterans and move them up to the next level,” Robinson added.