National Guard March 2017 : Page 27

ACCORDING TO PLAN STAFF SGT. SEAN MATHIS Ohio Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 2 Javi Mack is working on a master’s degree in human resources. University in Iowa rolled out a new online master of arts in organiza-tional leadership, and Stony Brook University, part of the New York University system, debuted a master’s in masculinity studies. Universities have begun to recognize and respond to trends in the business market, the job market and elsewhere, says Hubbard of Student Veterans of America. “That was not the case even just 10 years ago,” he says. However, “we encourage schools to understand” what the degrees they offer can do and won’t do for their students, he says. And students need to be wary as well. “There are tons of degrees out there. We encourage students to understand what they’re getting into,” he says. “We have concern about the value of some degrees. Certain schools don’t offer strong programs, and when service mem-bers get out, they may have a difficult time in the job market.” For-profit schools have been a particular problem. A number abruptly closed their doors last year amid fraud investigations and fi-nancial meltdowns. Hubbard urges caution. “If you get a degree from a school that shuts down, the degree is basically worthless,” he says. And there is the cost. On average, master’s degrees cost almost $30,000 at public universities and $40,000 or more at private schools, according to Peterson’s, the college guide publisher. Paying for graduate school is a challenge for many students, but usually it’s easier for Guardsmen. Thanks to the Montgomery GI Bill, the Post 9/11 GI Bill, the GI Bill Kicker, the military’s Federal Tuition Assistance Programs and various state tuition-assistance programs, grad school for Guards-men can cost little or nothing. “It behooves you to get a master’s while you’re still serving,” says Labara of Michigan. That’s because there are fewer funding options after Guardsmen retire or otherwise leave the service. The details about which Guardsmen qualify for what can be com-plicated, but here are some of the basics: Federal tuition-assistance programs will pay up to $18,000 for grad-school tuition over four years; ● The Montgomery GI Bill will add an allowance of up to $333 a month; ● The Post 9/11-GI Bill pays in-state tuition and fees plus a monthly allowance; and ● The Army Guard and Air Guard kickers provide up to $350 per month in living expenses Some schools also offer aid to Guardsmen. Wright State Uni-versity in Ohio, for example, offers scholarships of up to $2,500 per semester for full-time graduate students. Appalachian State University in North Carolina offers to “pay for your graduate school and pay you a stipend each month” for students who enter ROTC. For those who have already accumulated college-loan debts, the Guard offers a Student Loan Repayment Program. The Army Guard will pay off up to $50,000 in student-loan debt; the Air Guard pays off up to $20,000. There are, of course, eligibility requirements. Current Guardsmen must sign up for at least six more years of service, must be E-7 or below, and must have no more than 14 years of total service. Tech-nicians and AGRs are not eligible. Newcomers to the Guard must enlist for at least six years in a crit-ical-skills vacancy in a “go-to-war unit” at or below the grade of E-4. The expense of a master’s degree shouldn’t be a deterrent, says Bailey. Between education benefits offered by the military and schol-arships offered by schools, “it is definitely possible for a service mem-ber to attend graduate college with little or no out-of-pocket cost.” ● WILLIAM MATTHEWS is a freelance writer based in Springfield, Virginia, who specializes in military matters. He can be contacted at WWW . NGAUS . ORG March 2017 NATIONAL GUARD    27 |

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