In many ways, advising a veteran who is interested in starting or resuming their higher education journey after military service is no different from advising any other adult student.
Like other returning adult students, veterans often are concerned about how college will fit into their already-busy schedules, whether they will have the tools to succeed in an academic environment and which program will help them best meet their professional goals. And, like most students, they wonder how they will pay for their degree.
Thanks to federal benefits like the Post 9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33) and state benefits like the Wisconsin GI Bill, veterans — and in some cases their family members — can receive full or partial tuition reimbursement for post-secondary education or other training.
I asked Joe Rasmussen, director of University Veteran Services at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, to share some insights about education benefits for Wisconsin veterans.
What does the Wisconsin GI Bill cover?
The Wisconsin GI Bill is for eligible veterans and their families and can cover any level of education at any University of Wisconsin System or Wisconsin Technical College System school. This benefit may be used with or after certain federal GI Bill benefits to complete a degree or pursue additional education, including for-credit classes and official certificate programs.
How do veterans apply for federal and Wisconsin GI benefits?
The application for most federal benefits can be found online. Applying to the Wisconsin GI Bill is a two-part process. The Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs certifies the veteran’s eligibility, then the educational institution must determine if the student meets the statutory requirements.
I advise veterans to apply early for these benefits as the process can take up to three months in some cases. Also, don’t skip the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application. Many students use federal aid with the GI Bill or choose to save their GI Bill for future education programs by starting with financial aid alone.
Who can students talk to at their institution to learn more about veterans benefits?
If you’re interested in attending UW–Madison, you can contact our office of University Veteran Services. Educational benefits can be very specific from school to school. Other veterans organizations may be able to help with applications, but potential students should connect with the school they are interested in attending before they enroll.
What else do you want veterans to know about education benefits?
Please consider utilizing the educational benefits you’ve earned. College is very different from high school, and the skills you developed in the military often translate well into the college setting. I encourage all veterans to find a program or course interesting to them and enroll. Start with one class if you’re apprehensive, and just enjoy the learning experience.
GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at benefits.va.gov/gibill.
The Lifelong Learner is a monthly feature written by UW–Madison’s Continuing Studies staff. Ace Hilliard, student services coordinator, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may contact Joe Rasmussen at email@example.com. This article first appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal on November 14, 2021.