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College degrees are money in the bank

Study touts practical value of education

Northwest Guardian

Published: 03:30PM July 3rd, 2014

Exiting service members undecided about pursuing continuing education might consider a study published by The Federal Reserve Bank of New York that shows workers with a bachelor’s or associate degree make more money over their lifetimes than those without a degree.

This might be a greater incentive for service members to go back to school and use their G.I. Bill.

“We do know that college graduates earn dollar for dollar more than non-college graduates,” said Amy Moorash, Stone Education Center director on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The education center’s website says 90 percent of service members join the armed forces for the educational benefits, but only 50 percent actually use them.

Staff Sergeant Denice Griffin, of the 46th Aviation Support Battalion, didn’t need to read the report to know that a degree would lead to better opportunities for her.

“In today’s job market and in today’s society if you don’t have a college education you’re going to do a low-end paying job,” Griffin said. “With a college education you get more opportunity for a better-paying job.”

Griffin attended the Education and Career Fair hosted by the Soldier & Family Assistance Center at JBLM June 25 to help finalize her plans of pursuing her certification as a pharmacy technician.

“I’ve taken some college courses, but I want to finish with one degree and make a choice on what I want to do when I get out,” she said.

Service members preparing to exit the military have endless resources at their fingertips. Some of their options include trade schools, apprenticeships and college degrees.

Making use of the resources offered at JBLM is essential, said Jacqueline Seabrook, Soldier and Families Assistance Center Director.

“We are trying to let them know that (the fair) is a resource for them to use,” Seabrook said. “And since you’ve already got the funding to help you get through, it’s really important to utilize it to help you find the way you want to go.”

Tacoma Community College Veteran Program specialist Frank McDougald knows the pressures military members feel when it comes to deciding on their future.

McDougald, a retired Air Force master sergeant, got his masters in counseling and psychology and is now putting his education to work for other veterans. McDougald also has a “veteran’s navigator” working in his office to assist retired service members.

“If a veteran is experiencing any type of concern on the campus, they can come in and see our veteran navigator and ... discuss that in private,” McDougald said. Then that Navigator can direct them to the right resources.”

McDougald said he didn’t start pursuing his education until halfway through his military career. He said he wants to show service members that those same opportunities are available to them as well.

He encourages them not to be overwhelmed by reports of a competitive job market with few opportunities.

“I know its competitive and sometimes we need to lower the bar a little to get to where we need to be,” he said. “I’m proof of that. For example, I should be counseling and advising; however, there’s not a lot of full-time jobs out there, but this opportunity presented itself and I was like ‘right on.’ It’s a good fit for me, and it’s a good fit for the college and its good for the vets.”

According to the bank’s report, between 1970 and 2013 workers with bachelor’s degrees earned an average of $64,500 a year, those with associate’s degrees earned about $50,000 a year, while workers with only high-school diplomas earned an average of $41,000 a year.

Programs, like the kind offered at Clover Park Technical College, help service members find a job right out of school. Janet Holm, the college’s outreach coordinator, said she saw a lot of service members interested in nursing, automotive, aviation and culinary careers.

“We’re talking to Soldiers about what they can do when they get out and the opportunities that we can offer them,” she said.

Specialist Mark Moller, of the 864th Engineer Battalion, also attended the education and career fair to learn more about the various colleges, technical schools and apprenticeship programs. The California native said he would like to stay in Washington after he leaves the Army, and that he is especially curious about the apprenticeship programs.

He said joining the military has given him more options for his future.

“I always thought education was a big thing, especially growing up, and I have taken college classes,” Moller said. “I feel like the Army gave me a step-up, like a boost, so now that I’m getting out I can use my G.I. Bill to pay off the rest of the schooling.”