11 Inspiring Programs Helping Veterans Get Back to School

Current and former military job hopefuls line up to see a recruiter at the Civilian Jobs career expo August 5, 2010 in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Military personnel and former military, along with their spouses, were eligible to come to the event and speak to recruiters from military and civilian employers alike
••• Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images

America’s track record with tending to the needs of veterans upon returning from active duty remains spotty at best and deplorable at worst, but public and private initiatives alike seek to reward their heroism with educational benefits smoothing the road from the battlefield to career. Thanks to their prodigious efforts, returning service members enjoy heightened access to the resources essential to forging the rest of their lives.

GI Bill

The American government’s official initiative assisting veterans requiring career training and higher education once their service concludes isn’t perfect, but certainly offers numerous options suitable for a variety of needs. Offered by The Department of Veteran Affairs, the GI Bill is actually several different programs rolled into one. Some cover active duty, others the reserves, and another makes sure dependents and survivors have their needs met as well. So much information and red tape seems rather overwhelming for some, making the benefit comparison tools absolute essentials.

Veteran Success Jam

A joint effort by American Council on Education and The Kresge Foundation, the Veteran Success Jam brought together organizations, businesses, and returning veterans with the hopes of establishing the right fit for the right folks. Working both with and in addition to the GI Bill, the online event provided a forum in which participants discussed and debated issues relevant to veterans and higher education. Colleges and universities received intimate lessons in how to best tailor their offerings to meet this demographic’s unique needs and circumstances.

Severely Injured Military Veterans: Fulfilling Their Dreams

Once again, ACE participates in programming intended to meet the needs of veterans desiring a college or vocational education. Severely Injured Military Veterans, as one can imagine, focuses on making sure one of the more marginalized demographics among returning soldiers receive proper accommodation. Since 2007, more than 450 million Iraq and Afghanistan survivors have taken advantage of the academic advising available at three military hospitals. From there, they move on to schools capable of meeting their academic and physical or mental needs.

Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program

YRRP reaches out to National Guard members and reservists as well as their families, making sure they receive all the information they require during and after deployment. Education falls under the banner of services available, along with health care and legal counsel, specifically outlined to meet the particulars of serving in this particular branch. Much of the YRRP concerns itself with making sure National Guard members, as well as reserve members, receive proper school and job training funding for themselves and their families.

Hazelwood Act

Under the Hazelwood Act, military members who are Texas residents — as well as their dependents — receive college- and university-level educations at a far more affordable rate than civilians. Specifically, beneficiaries receive tuition for up to 150 credit hours as well as complete fee waivers. However, these can only be applied to participating public, technical, and vocational schools in addition to employers based in Texas.

Veterans for Education

Hosted by Rutgers University, this club encourages veterans and their supporters to educate the public about the realities of college life as a returning service member. Something of a stigma attaches itself to military members pursuing higher education, and organizations such as Veterans for Education work toward alleviating it in order to ease their transition into a brand new setting. Other offerings include fundraisers for a nice selection of veteran-related issues, guest speakers, and friendly going-away parties supporting enlisted students shipping off to Afghanistan or Iraq.

Student Veterans of America

With internships, scholarships, and conferences available, the Student Veterans of America nonprofit should be on the radar of all military personnel desiring higher education; there are chapters located all over the United States. Members here enjoy access to detailed resources regarding paying tuition and fees (if any) and settling into a brand new environment as comfortably as they can. Additionally, the extensive network SVA serves means cobbling together more beneficial strategies for providing veteran students exactly what they need to academically and professionally succeed after discharge or deployment.

Troops to Teachers

Both the Department of Education and the Department of Defense operate the Troops to Teachers initiative; its major aim should be pretty clearly broadcast. Qualified military personnel with an interest in working in the education sector as a second career hit it up for the resources and training necessary for public school positions. Funded and unfunded programs are available, though all of them ultimately hope to pair off participants with positions congruent with their educations and interests.

Helmets to Hardhats

Similar to Troops to Teachers, though run by different organizations, Helmets to Hardhats specializes in helping veterans receive the education and training requirements to work in the construction and building industries. The program also works closely with Wounded Warriors, ensuring equal employment opportunities for military personnel injured in combat. Apprenticeships form the bulk of Helmets to Hardhats’ programs, and upon completion and certification, it allows participants a chance at finding the most befitting position for launching their careers.

Strength in Service and Strength After Service

ONE Freedom’s reintegration programs involve more than just education, though it certainly stands as an integral component. Through free workshops and classes, both veterans and their families learn all about valuable job skills as well as strategies for balancing necessities. Even customized lessons are available for groups who want to focus on sharpening a specific area of their lives.

Veterans Education Project

Though based out of Amherst, Mass., much of New England benefits from the Veterans Education Project’s programming. Rather than getting them back to school as students, it places them in a teaching position as speakers, opening up about their personal experiences and demystifying the realities behind military service. Veterans Education Project operates the Military Families Connect effort, a combination support group and community outreach service emphasizing what loved ones go through when someone they care about deploys.