By Stephanie Montoya
The New Mexico Veterans Services and Higher Education Departments are encouraging veterans and eligible dependents to learn more about the many benefits and services available to pursue college and career training in New Mexico.
“New Mexico’s veterans and their family members have many options for pursuing higher education and career training free-of-cost to them, including state scholarship programs and veteran benefits such as the GI Bill,” Higher Education Secretary Stephanie Rodríguez said. “Veterans resource professionals and student centers at colleges and universities across our state are dedicated to helping student veterans enter and succeed in a supportive and caring environment.”
Most veterans who completed a required minimum of service on active duty in the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Army National Guard, or Air National Guard are eligible for veterans education benefits and educational and career benefits via the Post-9/11 GI Bill or the Montgomery GI Bill. GI Bill benefits include full tuition for in-state public colleges and universities and up to $1,545 for housing at $1,000 for books. Nearly 4,000 veterans are currently pursuing higher education on federal veterans education benefits, and over half of New Mexico veterans attain education beyond high school.
Eligible dependents can also receive educational benefits in some cases. Surviving spouses and children of disabled or deceased veterans may be eligible to receive educational assistance through a GI bill program. Veterans who have not used all their available Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits can transfer up to 36 months of benefits to a spouse or dependent child.
Veterans, their spouses, and their children do not have to wait to establish in-state residency status when applying for college, and those using GI education benefits can immediately take advantage of less-expensive “resident” in-state tuition rates at any state-funded college, university, vocational school, or vocational training program.
The New Mexico Higher Education Department offers the Wartime Veterans and Vietnam Veterans scholarships that provide for tuition and required books for veterans pursuing undergraduate, master’s, or doctoral degrees at a public or Tribal college in New Mexico. Applications for these scholarships can be obtained from the financial aid office at the college or university a student plans to attend or from the Department of Veterans Services.
In addition, students who enter the armed forces directly after high school graduation are eligible to receive the New Mexico Lottery Scholarship if they enroll fulltime in an eligible program at a public or Tribal college or university within 16 months of completing their military service. Any eligible New Mexican can also use the Opportunity Scholarship to pursue certificates, associate, and bachelor’s degrees full-time or part-time at public in-state institutions.
Currently, all New Mexico public colleges and universities have been certified for veteran’s benefits eligibility, and each has a certifying official on campus to help students access benefits and navigate the admissions process.
“We know from our experience as veterans ourselves that higher education can help veterans get promotions in the future. For example, a degree can help raise board scores for promotion in the Air Force,” Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) Veteran’s Resource Coordinator Ian Scott said. “We also help students explore their transfer options to continue their education.”
JJ Jorta is an Army veteran who completed the Spanish Interpreter Program at CNM and went on to complete a bachelor’s degree at the University of New Mexico (UNM) and has applied to the Master of Linguistics program at UNM. As a disabled veteran, Jorta is pursuing his education via benefits from the vocational rehab program. His wife and children are also pursuing degrees at CNM and UNM.
“It is our duty to be a 360-degree human being. I am a true believer in education, and New Mexico is a great place for my family and me to continue our education,” he said. “From my perspective, the resources are overwhelming.”
A Navy veteran, Kyle Tapaha found support and direction from the Veteran’s Resource Center at CNM and has since gone on to complete a bachelor’s degree at UNM and now works as the Urban Indigenous Coordinator at Americans for Indian Opportunity in Albuquerque.
“The Veterans Resource Center reoriented me. I was missing that camaraderie. Knowing that other veterans are working on improving their situations as well really helped,” Tapaha said.
New Mexico veterans and their families are encouraged to call or visit their local veterans services field office to learn more about benefits and eligibility requirements. A list of field offices and contact information is available at nmdvs.org.
More information about New Mexico college and universities and scholarship programs is available through the New Mexico Higher Education Department at hed.state.nm.us.
Stephanie Montoya is a Public Information Officer for the New Mexico Higher Education Department.
For More New México News: ELSEMANARIO.US
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