In 2016, military spouses are returning to school: we’re completing our undergraduate degrees and some of us are working toward graduate degrees. Our reasons are many and varied: we want to expand our employment possibilities, we want to be a role model to our children, we want to do something for ourselves—
With more and more colleges and universities offering online classes, the ability to go back to school is increasingly easier for military spouses—and more appealing. And with more spouses taking advantage of the Post 9/11 GI Bill, there’s an added incentive. But with so many options out there, it can be tricky to navigate the academic field.
Last April, we brought you our list of 2016’s most Military Spouse Friendly Schools®. Those schools that find themselves on this list are working the hardest to accommodate their military spouse students and they are determined through strict criteria including: academic support, academic credibility, career planning resources, flexibility, military family supports (i.e. the availability of programs specifically designed to support military families in an out of deployment), federal approvals and a correlation of MyCAA aprovred programs.
Beyond simply listing these schools, Military Spouse wanted to know what it’s like to actually attend one of these schools, so we reached out to Brittney Kohnke, an Air Force spouse and college student, to get her take.
Meet Brittney Kohnke. She’s an Air Force spouse, college student and our cover model of the August issue of Military Spouse Magazine!
Major: Labor and Employment Relations
What propelled you to continue your education?
I tried convincing myself that I didn’t need a bachelor’s degree, and then reality hit when we moved to DC. We paid for my associate’s degree out of pocket and I didn’t think I could afford to do the same thing for a bachelor’s. Money was a huge roadblock until he opted to transfer his GI Bill benefits over to me. Not having the burden of worrying about how I’m paying for each semester motivated me to find the right online program and start towards my bachelor’s.
What are some challenges you have faced as a military spouse in furthering your education?
I got married at 18 and knew I wanted to go to college, eventually. Choosing an education path was a tough decision, especially when I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do long-term. Once I did decide on a path, it was tricky to narrow down a choice for a school. I felt like each time I found something that seemed appealing, there was always some kind of roadblock.
Moving often definitely limited my choices in schools. We were at small bases or isolated areas where school options were scarce. I was afraid to start a program that I wasn’t 100% sure I would be able to finish. Because tuition was out-of-pocket for me, I didn’t want anything to be wasted. Even community colleges felt expensive on our budget. I’ve always worked full-time, but that still doesn’t allow enough to finance my education.
Why did you choose to go into your particular field of study?
We move around a lot, and I don’t foresee that changing for the next 10 years. I wanted to find a degree program that would open doors for me, regardless of where he gets stationed. Human resource management fits my personality and allows me to have the flexibility when choosing a career path.
What were you looking for in a school?
Primarily, I wanted to find a school with a great online program. I currently work full-time, so attending classes in-house is not really an option. Plus, I already spend so much time commuting; I don’t think I could add much more to that.
What appealed to you about Penn State?
So much appealed to me about Penn State. Firstly, it is a school that I am proud to attend. Secondly, the degree program I chose is top rated among online programs. Knowing this gives me confidence in my decision. Also, online education is becoming more and more prominent in the workforce. I am grateful to be receiving my education from a respectable school, online. It fits my lifestyle and is helping me achieve my goals.
How do you plan to use your education?
In general, my education is going to help make me more marketable to future employers. A bachelor’s degree is becoming the equivalent of a high school diploma, and many jobs include it as a minimum requirement. I want to use it to fulfill my desires without feeling so limited when it comes to finding a job every time we move. My resume is already pretty eclectic in nature, due to our moves. I want something that will set me apart and help me land my dream job.
Choosing a school that appeals to you is top priority. Finding a college or university that is also Military Spouse Friendly can offer an additional layer of support: whether it be emotional or financial—or both! We checked out Penn State University, where Brittney attends, to get the low down on what a Military Spouse Friendly University is like.
Founded in 1855, Penn State has a long history of serving the military dating back to 1865 when Penn State President William H. Allen established the Military Science and Tactics Department. Penn State established a Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program in 1916 and has commissioned more than 7,000 officers in all branches of the military since its inception. Today, Penn State serves more than 5,000 military service members, veterans, and dependents throughout the University’s campuses.
Of particular interest to many military and military spouse students, Penn State World Campus, the online campus for Penn State, offers more than 125 career-focused programs in education, business, engineering, technology, health care, and more, taught by world-renowned faculty. And a U.S. News & World Report has ranked Penn State World Campus No. 1 for Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans two years in a row.
More than 50 percent of Penn State’s military and veteran students are enrolled at Penn State World Campus, which offers a variety of benefits and support services, including:
- dedicated military admissions counselors, academic advisers, and Veterans Affairs (VA) certifying officials;
- a Military Grant-in-Aid program that reduces the cost of undergraduate tuition for active duty, guard, and reserve, and their spouses, by up to 44 percent;
- acceptance of credits for military education and training; and
- on-base learning at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.
COLLEGE QUICK STATS
School Name: Penn State World Campus
Location(s): The Pennsylvania State University, 128 Outreach Building, University Park, PA 16802
Recruiting Contact name: Lt. Col. Greg Bond, USMC (Ret)
Degree Programs: http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/degrees-and-certificates
A Matchmaker for You
Check out the School Matchmaker at GIJobs.com. This digital tool allows you to filter through thousands of schools based on what’s most important to you. If it’s all about location, you can search by geographic regions or cities. Want to know the tuition? The School Matchmaker has it. What about BAH? Got that too. Student veteran programs and services? Yep. You can even find out what student veterans say about their schools – think customer reviews on Amazon.
And since the School Matchmaker is designed for mobile devices, you can research anywhere, anytime.
To view the full list of the 2016 Military Spouse Friendly Schools ® visit us here.