Helping Middle-Aged Veterans Go Back to School

A struggling economy and high unemployment rate have led many US veterans to return to the classroom and pursue their college degree. And although most younger vets, especially those who enlisted after 9/11, have access to a variety of tuition assistance programs and benefits, many middle-aged veterans have seen their federal education benefits expire. Until recently, these older veteran students had limited options for funding their education endeavors. Those who couldn’t afford college simply didn’t return to school. Fortunately for these older servicemen and women, a new Veterans Affairs tuition-support program is changing all this.

The Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) targets older, unemployment veterans age 35-60 by providing them with a $1,473 monthly stipend (for up to 12 months) to pay the cost of community college or technical school. Only those students pursuing degrees that can lead to a high demand occupation as determined by the Department of Labor are eligible for the program. As of July 26, 2012, close to forty thousand veterans have applied.

It is great to learn about new programs like VRAP, which reinforce just how in touch Veterans Affairs is with the needs of our veterans, no matter their age, occupation, or education level. Now even those struggling with the increasing cost of attending college years and years after serving our country can still find the support they need to earn a degree.

Remember, veterans can also spend less money on their education by earning college credits through the DSST program. With DSST, vets can choose from 38 different subjects and earn up to three credits for each via a one-time exam that costs just $80 (plus a sitting fee). When coupled with VRAP and other similar programs, we can hope that the men and women who fought for our country won’t also have to fight to get the education they deserve.

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