Here’s how military spouses can choose the right college

(Photo: Unsplash, Juan Ramos)

This is the first in a three-part series sponsored by The American Women’s College of Bay Path University.

Trying to start or finish your college education as a milspouse can be challenging to say the least. There never seems to be enough time between duty stations to finish your degree at any one college or university. Often what you end up with is a collection of transcripts with varying amounts of credits and you are left scrambling to find a way to make sense of it all.

As a senior enrollment officer at The American Women’s College of Bay Path University and the spouse of a retired Marine, I get it.  Over the years, I have helped thousands of adult students return to college and while everyone has their own story of how life just really got in the way, what they have in common is a desire to finish their degree for personal accomplishment, and the need to better prepare themselves for career opportunities.

But where do you start?

The minute that idea of going back to school pops in your head, it is typically followed by one or all of these questions:

  1. Where do I go?
  2. What do I do?
  3. How do I pay for it?

In this first article, we’ll take a look at number one: Where do I go?

One of the first things to consider is whether you want to take classes online or in a campus classroom.  Your options for learning on-campus will vary from duty station to duty station, while online will offer you many more options and allow you to continue your education wherever the next PCS takes you. With all of these options, how do you choose the right one for you?

The first thing to consider is whether you want to enroll in a non-profit or for-profit college.  For a non-profit institution, their bottom line is mission driven, they are in the business of educating students and they sell the service of education to fulfill their mission. A for-profit institution, their bottom line is profit. They are in the business of educating students to generate profits.  The 2017 Condition of Education Report from the National Center for Educational Statistics showed that non-profit institutions, on average spent $17,426 on instructional expenses per FTE student, while for-profit institutions spent only $4,194.  Something to consider when you are deciding where you want to invest your tuition dollars.

The for-profit or non-profit designation alone will not speak to the quality of education you can expect to receive from a particular college or university. For that, you should look to  accreditation.  It is one of the best tools you have for determining consistent standards.  There are lots of different types of accreditation as well, but the most widely recognized and most widely accepted is regional accreditation. This is the same accreditation that most state schools, ivy league colleges and many private colleges carry. Regional accreditation helps to ensure that as you PCS from one duty station to another and attend different colleges, your credits would be transferable to another regionally accredited institution.

Finally, it is so important to talk with an admissions counselor at any school you are considering before you enroll.  This helps to ensure that the degree you are seeking is well aligned with the goals you have, and that you are able to really maximize all of your prior credits and life experience. There is also so much you can learn during a conversation with an admissions counselor about the culture of the institution. Are they friendly, responsive, willing to help and are they available at hours that are convenient for adult learners, or just 8-5?  At The American Women’s College, we actually require that all students have a conversation with one of our admissions counselors before acceptance to make sure that we are the right fit for you.