VETERAN’S NEWS From the Internet
Gathered by Bob Kinsler, SSG (ret), US Army, DAV, VFW Dept. of Oklahoma, PRO/Editor
7 Tips to help veterans and military members choose the right college
By Dr. Martin Bressler
For many years I have volunteered with programs that serve veterans and military members. As I have been a university professor and former administrator for many years, I get frustrated and upset when I hear of military members and veterans who get taken advantage of by colleges and universities. In many cases, this is done by a for-profit university with questionable credentials.
Both my sons are Afghanistan veterans, so I get to talk with them and their buddies pretty regularly. One friend told me of a university that lost his files and could not verify his coursework or that he even had enrolled there! Before you choose a college or university, please consider the following:
- Will your college degree have a good payback? I sometimes hear of students who take out $100,000 or more in student loans for a degree in elementary education only to find that those jobs only pay $35,000 per year where they live. You should choose the major that will help you to find a job that you are passionate about. However, you do not have to attend an Ivy League school for that as there are many more affordable universities to choose from, including our state university system. Most employment recruiters will probably tell you that where you went to school might get you your first job but after that, it is more about what you have done and what you can do for their business.
- How good is my college degree? More employers and graduate schools are concerned with the level of accreditation your school has in addition to the general accreditation the university has. Most colleges and universities are accredited by a regional accrediting body—-be careful of any college or university that isn’t. Certain college majors might also have specialty accreditations, for example, education programs, business programs, psychology programs, and nursing programs. Specialty accreditations can also be at different levels. In business schools, for example, AACSB accreditation (the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) is the highest level and some graduate programs and employers look specifically for graduates of those programs. Southeastern Oklahoma State University is one of a handful of universities in Oklahoma that has earned AACSB accreditation and has an MBA program ranked as one of the most affordable online MBA programs.
- Beware of shortcut programs. Too much credit for life experience is not a good sign. There is an old saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t” so be especially careful about universities that say you can graduate at a much accelerated pace.
- Online programs are not for everyone. Some students do not do well with online coursework. Personally, I cannot imagine taking a course online in Math, as I know I need the personal interaction with the professor. Online students must be very dedicated and spend the amount of time you would in a regular classroom on campus. The benefit of online programs is not having to travel back and forth to campus and you can usually do your work anytime day or night. As a professor, despite all I do to make my online courses excellent, the face to face classes are better and not only do students learn more, they get to know me. This is important if they are applying for a scholarship, graduate school or employment. I do not know any professors who write recommendations for students they have only interacted with online. In some cases, professors mentor students for many years after graduation.
- Get the most out of your degree! Get involved in campus activities, especially if they are clubs that relate to your major. Be sure to attend programs where there are guest speakers (and get the speakers’ business card!). Network with your fellow students as you may be able to help each other professionally in the future. Most important, get to know at least one professor every semester as they can be important mentors. Over the years I have helped find employment for a number of students and written many recommendation letters for law schools and other graduate programs.
- Check out universities you are considering. The best bet is to visit there, even if you are considering an online program. Ask about program requirements, accreditation, costs, what graduates of their program typically earn, and any questions you consider important. Did you know there are universities under investigation by the federal government? Before you take out thousands of dollars in student loans and/or waste you GI Bill benefits, check out the university carefully. Unfortunately, veterans and military members (see the New York Times article “When colleges use veterans as pawns”, February 10, 2015). For profit universities tend to be the worst offenders, but not always.
- Some schools are more “Veteran friendly” than others, even if they have been named a Veteran Friendly university. You will be able to find out if there is a university official assigned to working with veterans, whether there is a student veterans group on campus, and possibly professors who are veterans and serve as mentors to student veterans.
After the purchase of a home, a college education is the most expensive investment you will make. Like any investment, take your time and make sure you are making the best choice.
Dr. Martin Bressler is the John Massey Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, Oklahoma. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Martin Bressler is the Point of Contact I use for those class projects we (the VFW State of Oklahoma) use to understand what the younger generation is looking for regarding a service organization. I will be another one on use of Social Media to gain new members into several service organizations. Like the one that uncovered numerous fund raising events and the need for us within those service organizations to get out and meet with the younger veterans, we can use the results of the new class project sometime in April 2016.
Mary Meeks, who does cost/benefit analysis for Veterans works for Upward Bound at East Central University in Ada. She can be reached at 580-559-5541. Feel free to contact Mary to find out if the degree you are considering is worthwhile.
By the way, if you want to complain, add your support, or have something you want added to this article or another subject of importance to veterans, feel free to contact me at 580-271-0897 or Email me at BobKinsler@aol.com. This is veterans news, and if you have something of value please let me know.