With Veterans Day just a week away, we’d like to thank all those currently or formerly in the military for their service. We also welcome returning service personnel with some thoughts about furthering their schooling.
When people finish military service, many think about becoming consumers of higher education programs. They may be enrolling in college for the first time or seeking to complete a degree.
The Federal Trade Commission advises those consumers to ask eight questions of those representing institutions of higher learning. The goal is to cull the responsible ones from the diploma mills that are most interested in getting their hands on veterans’ tuition money. Visit www.consumer.ftc.gov and search “choosing a college.”
The FTC’s first question cuts right to the bottom line: What’s the total cost, and how do veterans pay for tuition or other costs their Veterans Affairs benefits don’t cover? You may be eligible for federal financial assistance with better terms than a private loan.
The second question deals with recent graduates and their delinquency rate in paying back their loans. A high rate might mean those students are carrying too much debt or that they’re having a hard time finding jobs in their fields.
The third questions if a degree from the school will get you where you want to go. Is the goal a certificate, a two-year degree or four-year degree? Which degree leads to the type of job you want?
The fourth question asks if you are being pressured to enroll before you can thoroughly research costs, course offerings and details of financial aid. If the school won’t give you written materials to review, that’s a deal-breaker. Just don’t enroll.
Fifth, can you get credit for your military training? Military Times ( www.militarytimes.com) conducted a survey recently of four-year, two-year, online and nontraditional schools. Of the 650 that responded, 84 percent said they accept American Council on Education credits; those credits translate military experience into academic hours.
Among other survey results: More than 75 percent of the schools waive late fees when military benefits don’t arrive on time. About half waive interest, extend credit for books and other expenses or help students get money for emergencies.
Question six asks whether credits you earn can be transferred. That’s a critical question if you plan on getting started at one school and attending another one later. If the credits won’t transfer, you’re out both money and time.
Questions seven and eight focus on the school. The type of accreditation it has (national or regional) may be a factor in transferring credits. And the school’s attitude about providing veterans’ services may play a key role in your decision to attend or not.
Maine has a number of educational and other benefits beyond those offered by the federal government. You can review them at http://maine.gov/dvem/bvs/benefits.htm.
Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visit http://necontact.wordpress.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.