Taking advantage of Post-9/11 GI Bill to achieve success as a civilian.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 21.2 million men and women were Veterans in the 2014 civilian workforce – that’s roughly 9 percent of the total civilian population age 18 and over. Unemployment and jobless rates both decreased last year to 7.2 and 5.3 respectively. Still, while news was good last year, more can be done to help Veterans transition successfully to civilian life. In the past there has been a challenging gap that has led Veterans to be at higher risk of financial distress.
To mark this Veteran’s Day, Consolidated Credit is taking a look at the VA’s 2015 Veteran Economic Opportunity Report to see how veterans are taking advantage of the Post-9/11 GI and Montgomery GI Bills. While some news is encouraging, other news offer some insight into how Veterans often struggle to transition successfully into civilian life.
The good news about GI bill beneficiaries
Of the Veterans who took advantage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, 92 percent used the benefits personally instead of transferring them to a family member. Student Veterans who used the GI Bill to advance their educations and training have an education completion rate comparable to the general public – Veterans have a 48 percent completion rate versus the 49 percent rate of non-Veteran civilians. Women have a 10 percent higher completion rate than men.
Over one third (35%) of Veterans used their benefits to receive an Associate degree, while another third (35%) opted for a Bachelor degree and 11 percent earned post-graduate degrees. Given that students in the graduating class of 2015 have student loan balances of roughly $35,000, using GI benefits can be invaluable for veterans to receive the training and education they need to be successful in the civilian world – without taking on significant debt that can hinder a worker’s ability to achieve financial stability after graduation.
What’s more, Veterans who used the Post-9/11 GI Bill have 11 percent higher median earnings than civilians of the same demographic. Women Veterans have 14 percent higher median income than their civilian counterparts.
Finally, in FY2013 the VA guaranteed 629,000 home loans. Within that number, 100 percent required no mortgage insurance in spite of the fact that 90 percent of those loans had no down payment. Veterans who opted for VA mortgages saved an estimated $35 billion.
More to be done to help Veterans achieve success
Of course, not all of the numbers from the economic report were positive:
- Veterans take longer to complete education programs – Veterans take 1.8 year longer to complete Associate degrees and 2 years longer to complete Bachelor degrees
- Over one third of the degrees earned were in Liberal Arts – Job data shows that the industries with the greatest levels of job growth, as well as the highest median salaries are in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)
- Completion at for-profit institutions are low – While Veterans have a 48% education completion rate at public institutions and a 60% completion rate of nonprofit private institutions, the completion rate at for-profit public institutions was only 38%
Know your benefits, use them wisely
“It’s good to see more Veterans taking advantage of GI benefits for both career advancement and homeownership,” says Maria Gaitan, Housing and Business Development Manager for Consolidated Credit. “These benefits can be crucial for transitioning successfully to civilian life, but particularly when it comes to education the benefits need to be used wisely.”
In general, for-profit institutions have significantly higher default rates versus public and nonprofit private institutions. So while for-profit schools only make up 12 percent of the institutions nationwide, they represent 44 percent of the total default rate on federal student loans. So while these schools can offer vocational training and shorter times to graduation, the success rate must be considered as well when choosing a post-military education path.
Additionally, employment in careers available to Liberal Arts majors is generally more competitive with less room for income growth over the long-term. Positions like graphic designers and marketing positions are often saturated in key job markets throughout the U.S. and salary limits start much earlier than what you find with STEM positions. Choosing a career path that can provide a lasting ability to achieve financial stability and your long-term goals is critical to success in civilian life.
“And Veterans who haven’t yet achieved the dream of homeownership should follow the lead of those who’ve recently found success,” Gaitan affirms. “VA loan options can often mean the difference between achieving the American dream now versus continuing to delay in order to generate the down payment you often need to be successful with traditional civilian lending options.”
To learn more about the options available to you in housing through the VA, call Consolidated Credit today at 1-800-435-2261 to speak with a HUD-approved housing counselor.