Military Spouse Resource Page
Choosing a School
A key factor in successfully completing your education goals is choosing the right school or program. There are several important questions to consider:
- Which type of school works best with my lifestyle?
- Are there any schools operating on or near the installation closest to me?
- Is the school accredited and if so, by what organization?
- Is distance learning right for me?
Some of these questions may not seem relevant as you start your schooling, but knowing the answers will ensure you have a quality experience.
Degrees from accredited institutions will be worth more to you when you rejoin the workforce than those that are not accredited. To receive accreditation, an institution must have an outside accreditation organization review the structure and content of its degree programs to ensure that the institution meets specific education standards. There are different types of accreditation.
Regional accreditation generally applies to what most people consider a "traditional college or university." In order to do graduate work at many of these institutions, you must have obtained a bachelor degree from another regionally accredited institution. Under regional accreditation the school is certified as acceptable by one of the six nationally recognized accrediting organizations in the country. The Department of Education website lists each regional accrediting agency and the states where they accredit institutions. Essentially, if an institution is regionally accredited, so are its programs. So, if you are considering a specific program at an accredited institution such as distance learning you can be assured that the distance learning component is equally accredited.
National accreditation generally applies to what most people consider a "vocational college or institution." National accreditation agencies focus on a specific field of study, for example, Art and Design, Business, or Physical Therapy. Typically, national accreditation agencies review institutions that have a career-focused curriculum and accredit schools located within the United States as well as some schools abroad.
Specialized accreditation is an accreditation status that is designated for specialized departments, programs, schools, or colleges within a college or university that have already been awarded either regional or national accreditation.
Specialized accreditation focuses on particular aspects of the department, program, school, or college's specified academic field of study. Students who are considering enrolling in a college degree program should know the requirements of their future career field and what it takes to become a licensed practitioner in that field.
If you are unsure of an institution’s accreditation, you can visit http://www.ed.gov/
to view the school’s type of accreditation or you can contact Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC), at http://www.soc.aascu.org/.
SOC will provide a quality check for higher education distance learning providers. Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) offers a wide variety of distance training and degree program options. Visit http://www.detc.org/military
for more information.
Continuing education can be difficult for the individual coping with frequent moves, deployments, or other challenges associated with military life. Distance Learning can be key to continuing education for Service families.
What is distance learning? It is a method of instruction provided to students who are remotely located from a school or university. It involves little or no time in a traditional classroom setting. Most student-instructor interaction is conducted through email, phone, or audio or video conferences. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 90% of education institutions offer some type of distance learning.
Options for Distance Learning
There are a variety of distance learning options available: low-residency programs; correspondence courses; as well as the current popular choice—eLearning. All of these options have their pros and cons depending on your situation, so do your research and pick the one that best fits you.
- Low-residency programs require minimal on campus attendance, and the majority of coursework is conducted at home. This can be an attractive option to students who want to pursue a degree and have the experience of a college environment, but are unable to be on-campus on a daily or weekly basis. However, there are on-campus requirements, which vary among programs and courses.
- Correspondence courses are classes you complete from home using materials sent to and from the instructor via regular mail or fax. It can be attractive to some students because it requires little to no technology, but access to the instructor and other resources are time-intensive. This is a popular option for those stationed overseas.
- eLearning is becoming synonymous with distance learning. These programs provide a seemingly unlimited opportunity to obtain distance learning for anyone with a computer and access to the internet. The instructors can customize classes to conduct quizzes, essays, class discussions, and instructor/student chat to aide the student to be successful in the course. Commitment to continued education, self-discipline, and self-motivation are a necessity if pursuing this or other forms of distance learning.
Distance learning has its positive points and can be the answer to the challenges of pursuing your education and a military lifestyle. Be sure to consider if the school is accredited (degrees from unaccredited schools can be worthless), the methods of interaction between professor and student, and how you will be evaluated. These are essential to get the best value from your educational pursuits.
Perhaps the number one concern of a prospective college student is: “How am I going to pay for my education?” Between scholarships, grants, and loans, it might be easier than you think. Many sources of financial assistance are available to help you complete your education. Various military associations, including the National Military Family Association and some military spouse clubs, offer scholarships for military spouses. Visit your installation’s Family Center, Education Center, and the financial aid office at the school you wish to attend for more information on financial assistance.
Don’t just look at military sources of assistance; many military spouses qualify for Pell Grants, Federal Loans, work-study or other need-based financial aid. All colleges (including community colleges) require that you have a Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) on file before any federal aid can be given to you. Federal aid is money provided by the federal government. By filling out the FAFSA you are automatically considered for a financial aid packet, which could include grants, student loans or work-study programs. To qualify for federal student aid you must be a permanent resident or U.S. citizen. Visit the U.S. Department of Education FREE Application for Federal Student Aid website http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/
to apply for federal grants and loans.
Frequent moves and the subsequent loss of credits are often the biggest challenges military spouses face when working to complete their education. Aside from the time investment spouses lose when their college credits don’t transfer, they can lose thousands of dollars as well. Losing credits greatly increases the time and money spent on completing an education. In some cases, your credits will transfer to equivalent courses, but some might transfer only as electives. Learn about programs and tips that will increase the likelihood of your credits transferring to equivalent courses.
Tips for Transferring
Understanding the process of transferring college credits is important to creating a smooth transition to a new college or university.
Each institution’s unique policies for transferring credits pose a challenge for any student. Credit acceptance can depend on the level of the course, your academic standing, how many credits you want to transfer, and many other variables.
The following tips are provided to help spouses navigate the process of transferring credits:
- Contact your previous schools to send an official transcript to your gaining school.
- Keep a copy of your official transcript for your own files.
- Create a file that includes each course syllabus and a copy of the school catalog.
You are your own best advocate, especially if you know the system. Shopping around can also help you find a program and a school that are most compatible with your needs. Some institutions may have a strong transfer relationship with the college or university you attend now. Several states also have articulation agreements for associate degrees; meaning if you earn an AA degree, a four-year college or university will automatically grant you junior standing.
If you plan properly, keep accurate records, and ask the right questions, the transfer process will be smoother and you’ll be one step closer to your ultimate goal—graduation.What is SOC?
A visit with your Education Office counselor is a good time to talk about Servicemember Opportunity Colleges (SOC). Military spouse education is more accessible than ever thanks to SOC, a consortium of more than 1,800 educational institutions that meet the unique needs of military families by agreeing to military friendly principles and creating degree programs that can go wherever the military sends you. There are two ways SOC Colleges help military students: as Consortium Members and Degree Network System participants.
As consortium members SOC institutions agree to:
- Reasonable transfer policies for accepting credit from other institutions.
- Limited academic residency requirements (usually 25 percent of courses are completed at “home college”)
- Award credit for military training and national testing program exams.
- Award credit for other types of extra-institutional learning.
SOC Degree Network System Participants
About 10 percent of SOC Members are also Degree Network System participants. These institutions take SOC one step further by issuing SOC student agreements and guaranteeing credit transfers with other SOC Degree Network System members. Military service members and adult military family members are eligible to enter SOC degree programs.
SOC Degree Programs
There are four different degree programs offered by the SOC Degree Network System.
- U.S. Army – SOCAD
- U.S. Navy - SOCNAV
- U.S. Marine Corps – SOCMAR
- U.S. Coast Guard - SOCCOAST
- Although the Air Force does not officially participate in the program, Air Force service members and their families are welcome to participate in the SOC programs of the other services.
Also, SOCGuard provides educational support to members of the Army National Guard by acting as a liaison between educational institutions and the Army National Guard. It is not a degree program. Guard soldiers and military spouses generally pursue degrees through SOCAD, the active Army degree program. For more information visit http://www.soc.aascu.org/
or call 800.368.5622 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For the Foreign-Born Spouse
Achieving the American dream often includes higher education that will lead to a professional, well-paying career. As a foreign-born spouse, you may have education and professional employment in your own country. But how does that translate to the United States? If English is your second language, the first thing you’ll need to do is demonstrate proficiency in the English language. Next, you’ll need to gain admission to a college or university, and finally, secure financial aid.
Demonstrating English Language Proficiency
To qualify for college or university level programs of study, you must first show that you can hold your own in an American classroom. Community colleges and universities each have a different set of standards to meet. Most community colleges require that you take the school’s English placement test so you can enroll in an appropriate English level course.
Universities require a nationally recognized English proficiency examination score such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). There are some exceptions to taking a proficiency exam. Students should contact their prospective institutions concerning the specific admission requirements.
Preparing for the Proficiency Test
The best way to determine if you are ready to take the TOEFL, IELTS, or any approved language proficiency exams is to take practice tests and see how you do. Practice tests can be found in books in your local library or bookstores. Practice tests can also be found at the TOEFL
When you’re ready, go to the official website of the test that you are taking and do the following:
Click the test registration link. When prompted, choose the country where you will take the test (not the country that you are from) and select a test center. Dates and contact information should be provided here.
Securing Financial Aid
Whether or not you are a foreign-born spouse, paying for school is often a top concern. Every student is required to complete the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). Based on the information in your application you may be offered grants, loans, or work-study. Foreign-born spouses should consider that only permanent residents or U.S. citizens are eligible for federal aid. However, as a foreign-born spouse you might also be eligible for the following: