This archived article was written by: Christopher Palo
“Join the Army,” they said. “We’ll pay for your education,” they said. “You won’t even have to use your G.I. Bill until you get out,” they said. Well, poppycock I say. Over the last 10 years, I tried multiple times to go to college while still serving in the military. They would let me start, then just as I got to the point of no refund from my school, the Army made me quit, for one reason or another they always made me quit.
The Army has protocols set up for soldiers if they are going to school and some sudden deployment or other unforeseen event comes along that prohibits them from finishing their classes. These problems are just the nature of the beast when you join the military. The Army understands this and has programs set up to prevent class failures due to inability to complete class work because of army scheduling. All the company commander has to do is sign a piece of paper given to the student/soldier to inform the college that it is a legitimate excuse and the class will be dropped, the money will be refunded and no credit delinquency will be placed on the individual.
But alas, does the commander sign the paper? No, instead he informs you that you should have planned better for this occasion. Oh, and did I mention that the commander actually has to sign a form to let you go to college while you are in the Army. Even better, he has to sign a completely different set of forms so you can use your tuition assistance. Notice how I said, “set,” that means there is more than one piece of paper to sign.
So let’s recap. The commander has to sign to let you go to school. Check. The commander has to sign multiple papers to have the army pay so you don’t have to use your G.I. Bill. Check. The commander acknowledges you want to thrive and better yourself while still serving your country. Check. The commander recognizes that it is not your fault a surprise deployment came up while you were in school. Negative.
I would like to make it clear; this isn’t the scenario every single time. There are actually good commanders that will be understanding of the situation. Have I met a single one in 10 years? No I have not, nor have I heard of such a mythical person from any of my comrades. I have heard of them in movies but that’s it.
Congress has elected to completely do away with all military-tuition assistance. Oh and it gets better, Colorado just passed a law to raising the amount of free tuition for undocumented workers. What? How does that make any sense?
You still have your G.I. Bill, you say and you can use it while in the military. You are absolutely correct; you may use the G.I Bill while in still in the military. But wait, you forgot to mention that if I use it in the military, I will not get the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). I guess that’s not too bad, you still live in the barracks, so you’ll be fine. Yes, I agree I will have a roof over my head to do my homework. I will also have 36-belligerently drunk privates running around screaming and fighting because this is their first time away from mommy, and now they have all this freedom and no way to control themselves.
You also have 30 percent of your G.I. Bill taken away if you use it while in the army. $52000, for college minus 30%, that’s almost half the original, that you had to pay into it .
Let’s say you have a bachelor’s degree already and you are thinking, well I’ll join the army for the G.I. Bill, plus the experience I’ll gain while in. I say, good luck with all that, because if you go in to the military with a degree, already you don’t qualify for the G.I. Bill. Now you are left with the experience you’ll gain while you are serving your country. Unfortunately I have some bad news for you. The civilian world does not recognize the military experience. Oh, your recruiter will tell you it does, but listen to someone who has 10 years of experience in the military. I am useless in the civilian world because what I did inside I would need a college degree for on the outside. The same thing applies to those with a degree, I’m sorry but the experience just doesn’t transfer.
The Army Chief of Staff, recently temporarily reinstated the army tuition assistance to 100 percent, but it happened once and it will happen again. I’m not saying don’t join the military, it was honestly the best 10 years of my life and would do it all over again. It made me a more productive member of society. What I’m saying is, if you are going to join the military do it for patriotism, love of country, or the want of a grand sense of camaraderie. Do not do it for the college, because sadly you will end up failing.