MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Though Marines have the chance to deploy, travel and have multiple opportunities most people never experience in their lives, many still miss out on the more common ones, like going to college.
However, deployments, secondary schools, family obligations or inconsistent working hours, may restrict a Marine’s ability to attend college. Some are already four or more years behind many of their peers, but the military does help those who are preparing to separate from active duty and want to pursue a higher degree.
According to Marine Corps Order P1900.16, Marines have the opportunity for an early release from active duty to further their education.
Before everyone jumps on the bandwagon, the early release for education can only be within 90 days of their original End of Active Service date and they must start full-time courses lasting three months or more in college, technical school or vocational school during that time frame, said Jeff Fourier, the Combat Center’s education services officer.
Not everyone can use this opportunity to go to school early though, there are certain criteria the Marine must fall under before their package can be submitted through their chain of command for approval.
According to the order, Marines must be eligible for an honorable discharge, their services must not be essential to the command’s mission, they must not have completed advanced technical training and must not have received compensation during their current enlistment, including re-enlistment bonuses.
If they qualify, Marines must submit a package through their command at least four weeks prior to the new requested EAS date with proof of acceptance, enrollment and payment to the school of their choice, Fourier said.
The Marine must then decide if he or she wants to use the Post-9/11 GI Bill or the Montgomery GI Bill, if they paid for it during their enlistment, said Lynda Burns, a Department of Veterans Affairs representative for Copper Mountain College.
“It’s important to make the right decision as to the best GI Bill for you,” she said. “Remember that you can use the old GI Bill, Chapter 30, and then change to the new GI Bill, Chapter 33, however, once you choose the Chapter 33, you cannot change back.”
To decide which GI Bill is the right choice, refer to the Department of Veterans Affairs GI Bill Web site at www.gibill.va. gov to weigh the benefits of each, she said. Once the decision is made and an application is submitted to the VA for the GI Bill chosen, the approved application can be proof for tuition paid for a submitted package.
Marines can also see if they qualify for the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid program at www.fafsa.ed.gov, which helps pay for tuition fees for colleges around the country and could qualify them for grants, Burns said.
If a Marine stays in California, the California Community Colleges Boards of Governors Fee Waiver, commonly referred to as a BOG, permits enrollment fees to be waived for all eligible California residents attending a community college in the state. Marines stationed in California have a one-year waiver as a resident after their EAS, Burns said.
For more information on early release from active duty for education or to receive an example packet and a copy of the order, contact the Education Office at 830-6881.