After graduating from college, most people have two things that no one can take away. The first is a college degree; the second is about $10,000 to $20,000 dollars of debt from both student loans and credit cards. College debt is a financial burden most students cannot avoid. The Army National Guard gives students the opportunity to get the degree without all the debt.
Chris Sink has taken advantage of this option to avoid debt. Sink is an electrical engineering student at Virginia Tech. What separates him from most college graduates is that he will be graduating in the green. Sink joined the Guard his sophomore year of college after already having $8,000 in student loans. The Guard not only paid off Sink’s student loans, they paid for the rest of his undergraduate degree.
Over the last decade tuition costs have continued to rise. Tuition, like taxes, always seems to increase. However, the rising costs of tuition should not stop anyone from achieving their higher education goals. With the Guard, students are not affected by increasing tuition.
The Guard is a great way to work part time while receiving full-time benefits. "My friends struggle to balance school and work," says Sink, "the Guard gives me the opportunity to focus more on school because I am only working one weekend a month. To receive the same financial benefits making minimum wage, I would have to work 86 hours a week."
In addition to getting paid between $160-$280 a month for drill, students also benefit from the GI Bill which pays $297 a month just for going to school. When Sink joined the Guard his signing bonus was $6,000. Signing bonuses are now up to $20,000.
College Loan Repayment
The Guard’s Loan Repayment Plan helps students who already have accumulated debt. The loan repayment plan will pay off up to $20,000 worth of loans the student has when he joins the Guard.
Students are often unable to study abroad or intern during the summer because they are either trying to pay off current student debt or trying to save enough for the next tuition bill. Nothing is wrong with this; it is actually honorable for students to try to pay their way through school. There is, however, a better way. The Guard pays for summer school and internships that are through accredited institutions.
Whether you are trying to catch up in your classes or graduate early, this is possible because you no longer have to work during the summers to pay for school. This gives you the freedom to spend the hard-earned money you make during the summer on whatever you need, rather than having the money go right to the university.
Another benefit is that the Guard pays the tuition for both in-state and out-of-state students. James Schwille is an out-of-state student studying forestry science at Virginia Tech. Schwille struggled to financially stay afloat for his first two years of college. Since joining the Guard, he has taken control of his financial situation and will now graduate debt free.
"I couldn’t have paid for college without the Guard," says Schwille. "Its tuition assistance program is giving me the opportunity to finish college debt free."
Most of the training from the Guard can be directly applied to civilian jobs. Military training and experience is a great way to build your resume. Some military jobs require a security clearance; something that reflects positively upon an individual. A security clearance will set you apart from other applicants when interviewing for jobs.
With what you have read so far, you might think students are lining up at recruiters’ offices. Here are some things that you must keep in mind if you are thinking about joining the Guard. They do pay for your school; however, you are under contract. This means that you are both a student and a soldier. During one summer you would have to attend Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training for your military job.
The possibility of deployment is also something students must consider before joining.
"I don’t think the Guard is for everyone," say Sink. "I was pulled out of college for an 18-month deployment to Afghanistan. It will have taken me six years to finish college. Even though this situation might seem undesirable, I will have real work experience and $25,000 saved from my deployment. If I had graduated in four years, I never could have paid off my debt in two years and had $25,000 in the bank. Plus, the experience and education I received overseas was more valuable than any class I have ever taken."
The possibility is available for students to graduate debt free. The Guard might not be your first choice; however, the financial benefits available are undeniable. Joining is both an investment in your future and in your country. If you are thinking about joining the Guard and have more questions, you can visit www.1800GoGuard.com.
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