By John Willis and Titus Hubbard, MIAT College of Technology Houston Campus
Many career colleges and vocational-technical institutes – as well as traditional universities, flight schools, and other entities that provide degree programs, training, testing and certifications – are well-equipped to support United States military veterans, reservists, and National Guard members. Many veterans seek out these types of institutions as they often mirror the skills learned in accordance with their Military Occupational Specialty Code (MOS code) and lead to a viable pathway into the civilian workforce.
The GI Bill has played a major, positive role in providing education and training benefits to veterans and their family members since 1944.
Proposed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and established as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, the primary purpose of the GI Bill was to provide assistance to men and women who served in World War II. At that time, the GI Bill provided for the establishment of hospitals, low-interest home mortgages, and stipends for tuition and expenses for colleges, trade schools and other training programs.
U.S. military veterans who served on active duty for 90 days or more after Sept. 10, 2001, can access an extensive range of educational benefits via the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Reservists and National Guard members can qualify for Post-9/11 GI Bill eligibility based on their type of service.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers excellent Post-9/11 GI Bill general Information in the form of a four-page fact sheet. (Follow this link to access the Fact Sheet: https://benefits.va.gov/BENEFITS/factsheets/education/Post-911_General_info.pdf)
The website Military.com also provides a succinct summary of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits:
The Post-9/11 GI Bill can pay eligible service members full tuition and fees at school, provide a monthly housing allowance while attending school, and give up to $1,000 a year to use for books and supplies.
If a veteran lives in the middle of nowhere, the Post-9/11 GI Bill will even provide a one-time relocation allowance to move to where the desired school is located.
Another provision of the Post-9/11 GI Bill allows eligible service members to transfer their unused benefits to family members. (Follow this link for more details: https://www.military.com/education/gi-bill/new-post-911-gi-bill-overview.html#more)
Forever GI Bill extends the timeframe for accessing benefits
Natalie Gross, a writer for Military Times, reported on June 11 of last year, that the number of Post-9/11 GI Bill users fell significantly in fiscal year 2017 – the first time this has occurred in the benefit’s nearly 10-year history, based on data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Gross explained that about four percent fewer veterans or their dependents used the Post-9/11 GI Bill at U.S. schools in fiscal year 2017 – which is a 34,000-student drop, according to annual figures provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Some experts attribute this decrease to the Forever GI Bill which expanded the original benefits that were signed into law in 2008 and reduced veterans’ and their family members’ urgency to complete their training as soon as possible.
The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, which became known as the Forever GI Bill, was signed into law by President Donald Trump in 2017 and removed the 15-year time limit on the GI Bill for veterans who have separated from the military since Jan. 1, 2013. The Forever GI Bill also addresses many changes to other related benefits for veterans, reservists and their family members. Important to note is that GI Bill benefits for military service members who were discharged or released before Jan. 1, 2013, will still expire.
How MIAT College of Technology serves military veterans
MIAT College of Technology is a “veteran friendly” career college with campuses in metropolitan Detroit and in Houston. The MIAT College of Technology Canton Campus has been designated as a Michigan Veteran Affairs Agency (MVAA) Gold Level Veteran Friendly School since 2015.
Veterans from any state or U.S. territory can enroll at either campus. MIAT’s faculty and staff are focused on ensuring that veterans use the education and training benefits which they are entitled to receive while also equipping them with skills in “high demand” industry sectors. MIAT staff help veterans to access and use benefits that address tuition, fees, books, tools, laptops, housing, supplemental financial aid, and spousal or dependent career advancement programs.
MIAT supports the following programs that are approved by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and branches of the U.S. Military:
- Chapter 30 and 1606 Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty/Selected Reserve (MGIB and MGIB-SR)
- Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation for veterans with service-connected disabilities
- Chapter 33 Post-9/11 GI Bill
- Chapter 1607 Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP)
- Chapter 35 Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA)
- Veterans’ Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP)
- National Guard Tuition Assistance Program (TA)
- MyCAA Military Spouse Career Advancement Account
- Comparable Credit (Comparable Credit is defined as program credit awarded for demonstrated relevant college-level education acquired through non-traditional schooling, work, or other life experiences.)
Veterans of all branches of the United States military represent a growing percentage of students and faculty members at MIAT College of Technology.
At the Houston campus, veterans comprise 21 percent of the student population and 48 percent of the faculty.
MIAT offers career training that complements or expands upon the experience that many student veterans have gained during their military engagement. For example, many MIAT students have worked as helicopter, airplane or drone maintenance technicians while they were in the military and want to apply that experience to a future career opportunity in civil or commercial aviation.
MIAT College of Technology faculty and staff understand and respect the role of veterans who have completed their military service and are in the process of transitioning in life and their career. While not required to do so, the school voluntarily ceases operations at both campuses on Veterans Day to demonstrate its respect for all veterans and especially those veterans who study and work at MIAT.
Success story: Zach Whittington
Many veterans who attend MIAT College of Technology and other institutions of higher learning have physical, emotional, or mental special needs are accommodated through the Americans with Disabilities Act. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a common diagnosis among veterans and can have an adverse impact on students who are experiencing the added stress of attending classes, studying, taking tests, working, and juggling priorities at home.
Among the many veterans who have completed their training during MIAT’s 50-year history, one graduate of the Aviation Maintenance Technician Program at the Houston campus is a standout and is an inspiration to other veterans for the commitment he made in overcoming extreme life-threatening challenges.
Zach Whittington served as a corporal in the United States Marine Corps for four years and six months. Approximately 80 to 90 percent of his responsibilities in the Marine Corps was focused on repairing and maintaining military helicopters. Zach completed his military service in November 2013 and began working in industrial plants around Baton Rouge, La.; however, he did not find his roles in the plants to be satisfying. He had also began studying at a local community college but did not feel that the curriculum or the environment was right for him.
Recognizing that he could use his GI Bill for tuition as well as housing, Zach decided to relocate to Houston and enrolled in the Aviation Maintenance Technician Program at MIAT on March 17, 2016.
Zach says that living in a new apartment, not knowing many people in Houston, going to school full time and working late nights as a server at a local restaurant was extremely stressful. He admits that he suffered from extreme sleep deprivation, anxiety, and depression.
Zach thankfully survived a suicide attempt about two years ago while he was a student at MIAT. He was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and was hospitalized for two weeks at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston. Adding to Zach’s anxiety was the knowledge that the FAA-sanctioned Aviation Maintenance Program is extremely strict, and that missing classes, assignments and tests can result in serious setbacks. Zach shared that MIAT instructors helped him make up tests that he missed with his classmates and helped him to apply his military experience to comply with the FAA’s requirements.
At the age of 28, Zach is a certified Airframe & Powerplant aviation maintenance technician with an Associates of Applied Sciences degree. He is employed full-time with Harco Aviation LLC, which operates two aircraft maintenance facilities in Houston at Hobby Airport and Ellington Airport. Harco Aviation is a diversified aviation service company that has been providing aircraft maintenance and management services since 1998. Harco is known for comprehensive and customer-focused solutions for business aviation and has grown to become one of the most respected aircraft maintenance and management companies in the industry. Harco Aviation services jets and turboprop aircraft that includes Citations, King Airs, Falcons, Hawkers, and Challengers.
Zach credits MIAT faculty, staff, and his fellow students not only for helping him get through the Aviation Maintenance Program, but also for helping him to heal mentally and emotionally. Zach also says that his young daughter, Anner, gives him a reason to live. Anner and her mom were present for Zach’s graduation ceremony at MIAT in March 2018. Zach’s daughter is almost two years old now, and he enjoys spending as much time with her as possible.
Wanting to be one of the best dads and one of the best aviation mechanics in the world are high priorities for Zach.
Zach is committed to continuing to learn and grow with his current employer. He hopes to be promoted within a few years. He also would like to repair and maintain helicopters again in addition to the airplanes that he is currently responsible for repairing and maintaining.
Zach shared these heartfelt comments and perspectives:
“Healthwise, I am more mentally stable than I have ever been. I have learned effective coping mechanisms. I am enjoying knowing and working with other veterans, which makes it easier for me to talk to them on both a personal and professional level. We understand and recognize each other’s challenges. I don’t hide my emotions anymore. And they call me out if they think I am holding anything back. I am extremely thankful to be in a better place. At some point in the future, I plan to start a nonprofit program to help homeless veterans, and I would like to partner with MIAT in some way to offer training and housing for veterans who want to improve their quality of life, improve their skills, and support themselves and their family.”
GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.
JOHN WILLIS is the President of MIAT College of Technology-Texas. The campus is in Houston. Willis also has more than 20 years of leadership experience in career education and training for colleges and institutions in Arizona, Kansas and Texas. He has served in the roles of president, dean, and faculty member. Willis is a member of the MIAT Board of Directors.
Contact Information: John Willis // MIAT College of Technology Houston // President // 888-547-7047 // firstname.lastname@example.org // www.miat.edu // Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MIATConnection/; https://www.facebook.com/MIATConnection2/ // Twitter: @miatcollege // LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/school/michigan-institute-of-aviation-and-technology/ // Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/explore/locations/8519021/miat-college-of-technology-canton-mi-campus/?hl=en
TITUS HUBBARD was promoted to the role of Director of Training for MIAT College of Technology for the Houston campus in 2018. Hubbard joined MIAT in 2015 as an Aviation Maintenance instructor and was named the Assistant Director of Training in 2017. He is a U. S. Army veteran responsible for repairing and maintaining Sikorsky Blackhawk helicopters.
Contact Information: Titus Hubbard // Director of Training for the Houston campus // MIAT College of Technology // 888-547-7047 // email@example.com // www.miat.edu // Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MIATConnection/; https://www.facebook.com/MIATConnection2/ // Twitter: @miatcollege // LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/school/michigan-institute-of-aviation-and-technology/ // Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/explore/locations/8519021/miat-college-of-technology-canton-mi-campus/?hl=en