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One of the greatest benefits of serving in our nation’s military is the ability to earn a degree at virtually no cost. Speaking from personal experience, I was able to earn my bachelor’s degree while serving on active duty by using tuition reimbursement. As a result, I freed up my Montgomery GI Bill education benefits to focus on graduate school as a veteran.
Perhaps most surprising, I recently discovered that because I served in two branches of the military, one pre-9/11 and one post-9/11, I still have access to post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for a Ph.D. or Juris Doctor. Thanks to the U.S. military and my ten years of service, I will reach a terminal degree without having spent a single penny.
As an active-duty servicemember, I found that American Military University offered the most flexible schedule and, as working professionals, my instructors understood the unique demands of military service.
Because of this, it’s no surprise that thousands of active-duty servicemembers from all branches of the military take advantage of their education benefits while serving.
What Happens When the Inevitable Deployment Interrupts Life?
First, whether you need to pause your degree program at all depends on the nature of the deployment. In many cases, deployments don’t mean going without Internet access or downtime.
Many servicemembers deployed to Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, Ukraine and other locations still find time to complete coursework. It’s all about being organized, making the most of your downtime and having the good fortune of working for a command that prioritizes education.
Still, there are deployments that require a much more demanding operations tempo. In those instances, schools like American Military University have options that allow for course extensions and withdrawing from a class without a penalty.
At American Military University, if you need to delay your coursework in the event of a deployment where you will have limited or no Internet access, there are several options. You can request a course extension, drop/withdraw from the course or ask for a program hold.
Requesting a Special Circumstance Course Extension
If you can complete the course within 90 days, you can request a special circumstance course extension. To do this at AMU, log into the student ecampus. Under “Academic Plan & Forms” and “University Forms,” select the “All Forms” menu to open and submit the “Course Extension (Special) Request Form.”
You will be notified of any required documentation, and you will have three business days from the time of the request or before the end of your course — whichever comes first — to submit the documentation. Once the documentation has been received, your request will be validated and your instructor will be emailed to confirm notification of the extension. You will also receive an email informing you if your request has been approved or denied.
Be Sure to Notify Your ESO
Grades are reported to the Education Services Office (ESO) twice a month. If you have been granted a course extension, it is your responsibility to print your grade report and submit it to the ESO. You will find your grades by clicking on the “Grade Reports” link under the “Academic Plan & Forms” menu.
Dropping or Withdrawing from Courses
If you are within the first week of the class, you will want to drop the course. If you are between week 2 and the start of the final week of the course, you can submit a course withdrawal. Read “How to Drop or Withdraw from a Course” for details.
By providing official documentation to your education office, your tuition assistance may not need to be reimbursed.
Requesting a Program Hold in the Event of a Deployment
To be considered an active student at our university, you must complete at least one course every 12 months or you will be disenrolled from the university.
If you know in advance that you will be unable to take any courses over more than a 12-month period, you can submit a Program Hold Request Form from the “Forms” menu on your ecampus. This will allow you to hold your program for up to two years with no risk of disenrollment. However, it does not change your program deadline. Read the “Program Completion Deadlines” article for more details.
Thank You for Your Sacrifice
Earning a degree while serving on active duty is one of the best ways to leverage your education benefits. You earned those benefits when you volunteered and swore the oath.
Make sure that you maximize everything that you have earned and sacrificed for. There is no better way to prepare for a successful career post-transition than to make education a priority.
Thank you for all you do, and I’ll see you in the classroom!
About the Author
A veteran of both the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force, Professor Wes O’Donnell is a highly sought-after presenter and filmmaker who has spoken at TEDx on data visualization and the U.S. Air Force Academy on leadership. Wes earned both his B.A. in international relations and his M.B.A. with a focus on IT management at American Military University, and he has served as a university ambassador since 2013.