The improvement of professional education and retraining of military personnel is one of the main areas of social development. Service members have the right to study in the preparatory departments of different educational institutions at the expense of federal budget funds to support educational programs (Anderson, 1991). Considering that additional education provides employment opportunities, business directions, and social assistance, service members and veterans should realize their rights and enroll in tuition assistance (TA) programs. This paper aims to discuss the benefits and reasons for seeking TA, as well as focuses on the barriers met by service members, to offer relevant solutions to the problem of unclaimed funds.
The history of TA programs began under the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 in the 1950s, when the government of the US decided to provide educational benefits to persons on duty (Buddin & Kapur, 2002). Millions of veterans attended colleges and universities to improve their social positions, which also allowed the country to improve its human capital. The evidence shows that today, only five percent of employees participate in TA programs, which are largely caused by the uncertain understanding of advantages by both employees and employers (Zivic, 2020). Companies often do not see why they should spend additional funds to provide TA programs, and service members do not realize any benefits within their organization. Currently, the problem is complicated by little support to promote such employees’ professional growth. The problem persists because veterans can be resistant to change, and the adaptation to education and technology seems to be difficult (Perkins et al., 2020). Non-flexible curricula and poor organizational performance of companies and educational facilities also deteriorate the problem.
Side A: Service Members Should Use TA
The process of acquiring new knowledge, skills, and competencies should be carried out constantly, throughout the entire service. For this, it is planned to create a system of continuous education, including a network of educational institutions of various levels, in which service persons should undergo relevant training (Buddin & Kapur, 2002). This allows for successfully adapting to the changing conditions of military service and civilian life, preventing social and psychological problems. The quality of training of service members should be largely determined by the planning process of their training (Mehay & Pema, 2010). There is a need for a harmonious logical sequence in mastering knowledge, skills, and relationships. More to the point, the expertise of teachers should involve various methods, forms, and means of education (Anderson, 1991). Monitoring and analyzing the results obtained, as well as improving the material and basic teaching methods for individual academic disciplines, should be a priority of TA programs.
Side B: Barriers to Using TA
Throughout their service member careers, military persons have to undergo a range of stages, such as integration, post-deployment, and after-service period. In many cases, they suffer from problems of reintegrating into civil society, facing issues within their families and a lack of proper employment (Perkins et al., 2020). Some service members try to work hard, having no time for education that is perceived as unnecessary. Little support from employers limits career growth opportunities and, as a result, income raise potential remains low. It should also be stressed that housing, legal, and health challenges are likely to appear (Perkins et al., 2020). The negative experience during school years and low self-confidence also prevent service members from seeking TA programs. In this case, frustration and depression develop, leading to the resistance to learning something new and achieving financial stability. In addition, some people merely do not know how to start and whom to refer to learn more about such educational assistance.
The cooperation between Fortune 500 and education providers is one of the solutions that would lead to the greater enrollment of service members in TA. According to Zivic (2020) and Mehay and Pema (2010), digital education should be promoted as a more convenient way for service members, who often need to work and study at the same time. The knowledge, motivation, and organization (KMO) framework is offered as the basis for the collaboration, while the primary goal is to ensure that companies would have a raising return on investment from employee growth (Zivic, 2020). In other words, this solution is devoted to working with potential employers and educational facilities to promote their interest in TA for service members and veterans. As a result, employers would benefit from hiring qualified and motivated personnel, while service members would receive free education and great employment and income prospects.
Increasing the awareness of TA programs among service members is another solution that can be achieved by presenting the advantages of education. Namely, since the perceived lack of time and benefits is the leading cause of avoiding programs, people need to be taught about the value of TA. For example, group discussions and public meetings with those who finished their TA programs can be organized, so that service members would ask questions and receive timely feedback. For veterans, Perkins et al. propose the use of “data-driven approaches in veteran hiring practices, military-to-civilian cultural transitions, and person-job fit to assist veterans’ successful transition to civilian employment” (p. 9). These measures are noted to be effective to help veterans handle the challenges of adapting to higher education and transitioning to civilian life. Accordingly, education providers should be aware of their challenges, being ready to apply innovative strategies and academic counseling.
To conclude, it is critical to stimulate service members and veterans to enroll in college and university educational programs through TA. Currently, the barriers that prevent them from receiving an education are a lack of awareness, self-confidence, negative school experience, time constraints, the necessity to overcome psychological issues post-deployment, and little support from employers. The greater number of service members engaged in education will lead to the improvement of their social and economic statuses. On a larger scale, employers would receive more motivated and qualified employees, and society overall would benefit from having improved human capital and fewer social problems.
Anderson, C. L. (1991). The Tuition Assistance Program in the military. ERIC, 1-13.
Buddin, R., & Kapur, K. (2002). Tuition assistance usage and first-term military retention. Rand National Defense Research.
Mehay, S. L., & Pema, E. (2010). Analysis of the Tuition Assistance Program: Does the method of instruction matter in TA classes? Naval Postgraduate School.
Perkins, D. F., Aronson, K. R., Morgan, N. R., Bleser, J. A., Vogt, D., Copeland, L. A., Finley, E. P., & Gilman, C. (2020). Veterans’ use of programs and services as they transition to civilian life: Baseline assessment for the veteran metrics initiative. Journal of Social Service Research, 46(2), 241-255.
Zivic, J. M. (2020). Developing partnerships between education providers and Fortune 500 companies to increase the utilization of Tuition Assistance and quality digital education: An innovation study (Publication No. 28088868) [Doctoral dissertation, University of Southern California]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.