When veterans return home, the fight to protect our freedom might be over, but the battle for a better education has just begun.
More military students are taking advantage of their educational benefits, especially students enrolling in graduate programs. Before 2008, only 22 percent of graduate military students were using these benefits, but after the Post-9/11 GI Bill passed in 2009, the number of graduate military students utilizing these benefits increased to 46 percent in just four years. The amount awarded to students also increased by about 50 percent between 2008 to 2012.
The University of Utah values the sacrifices that veterans make when joining the military, which is why the David Eccles School of Business and many other schools nationwide provide veterans with valuable resources when applying for and pursuing an MBA. Here are five reasons veterans should consider pursuing an MBA:
1. Take advantage of the further expanded GI Bill.
In 2017, President Donald Trump signed into law the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, also called the Forever GI Bill, which further expands veteran educational benefits. The GI Bill can cover tuition costs, money for books, and even living expenses. The University of Utah and David Eccles School of Business work with students to ensure that they can fully utilize these benefits.
GI Bill benefits go beyond covering tuition costs, as it can also provide financial assistance for test preparation classes, which can improve test performance and final admissions applications. Guillermo Garcia, an Army veteran and a student in the Executive MBA (EMBA) program, enrolled in a test preparatory class to improve his MBA prospects.
“My academic background wasn’t the strongest coming in, so the program pointed me in the right direction and helped me get in touch with some of the GMAT prep courses here on campus,” noted Garcia. “And the GI Bill helped pay for the prep course, too, so that worked out really, really well. They will pay for prep classes, exams, and everything.”
2. Benefit from MBA programs that are now more flexible than ever.
Many of the world’s top business schools are creating new MBA programs and formats with the goal of providing maximum flexibility for today’s learner. With some schools offering full-time, day, evening, online, weekend, and flex options, there has never been a better time to earn an MBA — on your terms. The David Eccles School of Business offers four MBA degree options that can be tailored to fit work and life commitments.
Garcia manages flight operations for Textron, a company that provides service support to the Army for unmanned systems, such as drone programs. Due to set work hours and travel requirements for his job, he needed a program that could fit around a regular work week, like the University of Utah’s EMBA program, which meets for classes every other Friday and Saturday.
Garcia noted, “I am managing pilots at 16 different sites all over the world, so I have people in all those dangerous places. That’s why I wanted the EMBA program, because I have to be responsible to them. And I can’t tell them, ‘Well, it’s 8 to 5 Mountain Time, so I can’t help you.’”
Many universities also now offer hybrid, part-time MBA programs that allow students to take a mix of both on-campus and online classes. The University of Utah’s Professional MBA (PMBA) program offers a flex option that has proved valuable for Matthew Tuttle, a current PMBA student.
“I was deployed for a good part of my MBA program,” said Tuttle, an electronics technician with the Utah Air National Guard. “I took some online classes, and then, when I was back in the States, I took on-campus classes.”
Whether a veteran wants to be immersed in on-campus learning or needs a distance-learning platform, there are ways for them to remain engaged in their program in-state and abroad.
3. Develop the skills needed to excel in the business world.
The versatility of the MBA provides opportunities for students to excel in many areas of business. This allows veterans to develop professional skills and learn the language of business to an extent they may not have in the military.
“I didn’t have the financial acumen I needed. I had no understanding of things like marketing and advertising,” said Scott Apple, a Navy veteran and Professional MBA alumnus. “I knew I was pretty weak to jump into the private sector, especially in accounting. Even in my business now, I am happy I took the accounting class. I felt like I came out of that program more prepared than the average student.”
The professional skills developed in an MBA program can also help veterans transition into a number of professions in a variety of business sectors throughout their careers.
“It was general enough that I could apply it in any situation, because we learn about all different aspects of business,” said Kyle Neumayer, a Full-time MBA student and Army veteran. “Whether you are in nonprofit, or you’re in IT, or you’re in any aspect of business, you can apply whatever knowledge you learn here into those areas.”
4. Receive specialized support and services from campus.
As the focus on recruiting and retaining top veteran students into higher education programs continues to be a priority, many universities have created specialized support centers to offer comprehensive services to veterans.
The Veteran Support Center at the University of Utah offers students assistance with VA benefits, financial aid, scholarships, as well as opportunities for mentoring and tutoring. They focus on helping students achieve success, while providing free printing, veterans activities, refreshments, and swag.
Tuttle found the Veterans Support Center especially helpful in processing his VA benefits for his program, stating, “If a veteran is going to use any sort of VA benefit, they need to work through the Veterans Support Center here at the U, and that process is a well-oiled machine. They know what they are doing, and if they don’t have the answer or can’t do it, they can point you in the right direction.”
In addition to ensuring the timely processing of benefits, support centers also create a network for students to connect with other veterans.
“They have been really good about helping me know what the deadlines are, and making sure that I am getting my GI benefits up on time,” said Garcia. “I have not had a single hiccup with my benefits and being able to utilize them. And, of course, they are always inviting me to luncheons and football games that we can participate in.”
5. See an immediate return on investment.
The investment in an MBA degree also can be seen as one with immediate returns. Not only do MBA graduates see higher salaries upon completing the program — University of Utah Full-time MBA students saw an average 79 percent salary increase upon graduation — but there are also many opportunities within the program for students to connect with employers, especially those with a military presence.
“They absolutely have a military presence at [USAA], and I was drawn to it because they had such great customer service with me over the years, so that’s where I did my internship,” said Neumayer. “I really enjoyed giving back to that type of military community. I actually got my full-time job offer there, so I will be moving back down to San Antonio and working for USAA after I graduate.”
Garcia has also seen a direct return on his investment, as he has been able to become more involved in leadership opportunities within his organization.
“My leadership in my own organization is starting to look at me and target me for advanced roles,” he said. “They have seen that, through what I have learned, I am speaking a different language, I am more involved in more higher-level, strategic-level planning, and as a result of that, I am more curious about it, I am more engaged with it.”
To learn more about the University of Utah’s MBA programs and the benefits it can provide for veterans, including details about an upcoming Value of an MBA for Veterans Information Session, please visit //eccles.utah.edu/programs/mba/mba-veterans/.