GI Bill 101
First off, good for you on deciding to take advantage of your educational benefits. It is one of the wisest decisions you’ll make in your life and one of the most beneficial, economically.
Did you know that your income earning potential is nearly twice as much with a Bachelor’s Degree than without (Forbes article, 2003)? Not only is the G.I. Bill a great way to transition from military service to civilian life, it also allows those who take advantage of it the chance to change their socioeconomic status. Trust me, I know – I’m a product of the G.I. Bill myself.
While the ongoing wars against Al-Qaeda have shown us just how horrible war can be, it is important to remember that those who have served and made it out safely now have the ability to not only upgrade their life but the lives of their children as well. So, from all of us here at Portland State University, thank you so much for your service. It is because of brave and selfless individuals like you that we are all part of the most powerful, successful and beautiful nation to ever exist in the history of mankind.
Now, it is crucial to understand that college is not only a cerebrally challenging endeavor; it is also very taxing for veterans socially. Traditionally, college students are 18 to 22 years of age, have come directly from high school and are receiving some sort of financial assistance from either their parents or the government (Financial Aid). On the other hand, the average student veteran is 24 years old, has been to at least one additional continent and has some sort of advanced training (technical, tactical, medical or administrative). Aside from that veterans understand what its like to follow orders and work as a team to accomplish a goal – all in a high-pressure and often intense environment. I was once told during an interview for a job that while I didn’t have the experience the position required, I was a strong candidate because, due to my military service, I knew how to follow orders from superiors whom I thought were incompetent. I later learned that the person conducting the interview had served eight years in the Air Force. The point is: there is so much we learn during our military service that directly applies to embarking on a successful college career. Even if we don’t know we’ve learned it yet.
However, with the advantages military life offers there are also certain obstacles student veterans have to overcome that traditional students have no idea even exist. Aside from the difference in age and experience, there are invisible battles that most veterans fight, and win, every day. To most, the letters T B I mean nothing – or, perhaps to those from the South, they may mean the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. But to most veterans, and those who serve them, those three letters mean a lot. Another acronym (oh, how the military loves its acronyms) also has quite an affect on a veteran’s ability to function in everyday life, much less complete college (now, say it with me: “PTSD”). There are more than 1 million disabled veterans in the U.S. and more than 350 attend PSU every term. Regardless of what “disability” a veteran may posses upon his or her discharge; it is simply one of many inadequate excuses veterans use for not attending and completing college. Portland State University (and any university, for that matter) has a long list of services available to all students. From the Disability Resource Center (which offers its members Priority Registration) , to the services offered by the Child Development and Family Services Center, whatever your situation PSU has you covered – all you have to do is ask. We know it’s difficult to ask, sometimes. But it is worse to go unnoticed.
While many colleges say they are “Veteran Friendly,” PSU was actually founded due to the incredible demand from World War II veterans looking to use their brand-new G.I. Bill benefits. Cool fact – did you know that in 1947 more than half of the new admits to colleges, across the country, were returning veterans? To this day, PSU has never lost sight of its origins and still prides itself as an institution of higher learning not only desirable to the general population, but also essentially built by veterans for veterans.
While many veterans traditionally chose to remain anonymous – the pride, courage, dedication and honor we all achieve while serving our country translates directly into achieving success in life. From Jonny Carson, to Chuck Norris – and from George Steinbrenner to FedEx founder Fred Smith to inventor R. Buckminster Fuller, some of America’s most talented and brilliant people are veterans.
Now that I have you all excited about attending PSU – below is a checklist of what you need to do to become a Viking Vet – and, upon graduation, becoming upwardly mobile.
Viking Vet’s Checklist
- Apply and establish eligibility for the G.I. Bill. There are several different G.I. Bill programs – here’s a list of the different programs offered by the VA.
- Obtain transcripts from every college you’ve attended. I suggest not only requesting copies to be sent to the school but also get two copies for yourself (just know that as soon as you open them they are unofficial). It’s just handy to have a set of your own transcripts for Admissions, Academic Advising and for your own information.
- Apply to Portland State. Once you’ve accepted, attended an Orientation and have selected classes, stop by the office, fill out a Cert Form, as well as some additional paperwork, bring in a copy of your DD-214 (Member 4 or Service 2 copies will do) as well as your Certificate of Eligibility (the VA send this to you. It outlines the length and specifics of your entitlement).
That’s it. I know you don’t believe it, but it really is that simple.
Once again, congratulations on your decision to embark on one of the greatest journeys of your life. It’s going to be a long, challenging journey and sometimes you may feel that it isn’t worth it. I’m telling you it is – and you’re not alone – PSU’s Veteran Services team is here to make your goal of earning a college degree a reality. Good luck -- and make it happen -- for yourself, for your family and for your country.
Veterans Certification Officer/Degree Requirements
Admissions, Registration & Records
Portland State University