aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

Veteran Distance Learners Deserve the Same Benefits

Posted by Ellen on November 12, 2010

I wanted to do an inspiring post today about how many veterans are devoting themselves to advancing their education through elearning and found not only some amazing statistics, but a debate over changes to the GI Bill that gave me pause.

First, the statistics:

According the Institute of Education Sciences’ National Center for Education Statistics, approximately 660,000 undergraduates were veterans during the 2007-2008 academic year. Those numbers were expected to rise by an additional 100,000 – 125,000 when the latest revisions to the GI Bill were implemented last year.

It’s great to know so many veterans are taking advantage of this valuable benefit — it’s the least we can do for those who have given so much to protect the rest of us.

So it’s unfortunate to discover that some some of the revisions have raised some controversy, especially related to distance education — elearning, if you will.

Yes, higher education programs delivered online are covered. But some veterans say they won’t access the online programs they’ve wanted because they need the housing stipend that’s only available for those attending brick and mortar institutions.

The debate boils down to this, as well as I can tell:

If you’re attending a brick and mortar institution, you need to live in the vicinity to do so, and you might need financial assistance to afford the local housing.

That makes sense.

The other side says that if you’re attending a fully online program you can live anywhere and could even take advantage of the housing stipend by moving into a place that’s higher rent in order to qualify for a higher benefit.

The counterargument is that distance learners need to pay a mortgage somewhere and not getting a housing stipend creates more of a hardship for those online students than traditional students.

Some are going so far as to say that because the greater benefits afforded brick and mortar students suggest a preference for traditional education — that somehow online learning isn’t as valued as traditional classroom education, despite research to the contrary pointing to its efficacy.

As an elearning advocate, the debate concerns me. No veteran opting to continue their education — regardless of the delivery mode — should have greater or fewer benefits for doing so than other veterans.

Additional legislation has been introduced to make changes in the housing allowances, so hopefully anyone who needs additional assistance to advance their education will get it — regardless of where they are in the world.

Our veterans deserve the best we can give them. Let’s let them choose how they want to continue their education, give them the ways and means to do it, and applaud them for their efforts. To do any less is un-American.

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