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Joint Base Andrews Features

NEWS | Sept. 19, 2012

Department of Education schools Andrews on resources

By Senior Airman Amber Russell 11th Wing Public Affairs

More than $150 billion in Federal student aid is available to military members, dependents, and Joint Base Andrews community members who qualify, to help pay for college. However, taking initiative to sign-up is a must.

Military life and life in general can distract individuals from meeting their educational goals. Knowing this, Dr. James Copeland, Jr., Department of Education office of Federal Student Aid Awareness and Outreach specialist, took initiative and made a special visit to Andrews on Aug. 23, to supply service members and their dependents with educational funding opportunities, as well as dispel education financing myths. Michelle Draughn, Department of Education management and program analyst, joined him.

"We are here today to put forth a concerted effort to make sure military members, their families and anyone who works on base understands the importance of education and how they can take advantage of government-funded programs while they are available," said Copeland. "In the twinkling of an eye, they could be gone."

Draughn, once a military-spouse mentor, has been helping military family's access valuable resources for years.

"I attended monthly battalion and brigade family support meetings for spouses, and even created a "battle book" to disseminate valuable information to families at Fort Bragg and Pope Field, N.C." she said. "I know the challenges military dependents face in finding resources and networking."

Working with families in the military gave Draughn experience and passion to her current career field with the Department of Education, she said.

"Federal student aid can help students pay for education expenses at a college, trade school, or graduate school," said Draughn. "I encourage anyone interested in pursuing higher education to visit our website,, to see a comprehensive step-by-step checklist which details how to prepare academically and financially. This is especially helpful for seniors in high school but begins as early as elementary school."

There are a variety of aid options for those who qualify.

"We offer grants which do not have to be repaid, work-study and subsidized and unsubsidized loans that must be repaid with interest," said Copeland. "These options are available to anyone, as long as they meet the basic criteria. There is no age limit, credit check or GPA requirement upon enrolling and it is free to apply. However, once you are in the program you must maintain at least a 'C' average."

Copeland advised people to apply for Pell grants and scholarships before committing to any loan any agreement.

"Entrance and exit counseling are the two most important steps in the process of getting loans," said Copeland.

These two steps ensures students know in detail the amount of loan(s) being requested and what is expected upon repayment after graduating or exiting school. Your school will award you the maximum amount of loan money unless you request less. It is up to each individual to determine their personal need and judge accordingly.

"Parents must stay engaged with their college students while they are away because the amount of money borrowed is the students' discretion."

Unlike some "frivolous" items people can take out loans for, Copeland says getting a loan for college is like getting a passport to a better way of life in the United States.

"My education has propelled me to another area in life," said Copeland.

Draughn, who said she loves to learn, has a Bachelors degree in Interior Design, a Masters degree in management, Masterss degree in Business Administration and she has a certificate in forensic accounting.

"Federal Student Aid, subsidized and unsubsidized loans, as well as out-of-pocket expenses paid for my education, said Draughn."

The two repeatedly mentioned the importance of visiting the website as soon as possible to find out federal and state deadlines, as well as the deadlines of the institute you wish to attend. They also mentioned other links that can be found on the website to explore careers and save for a dependents college.

The Department of Education has gone above and beyond to bring federal easily-accessible educational funding information for those who qualify. It's up to Team Andrews members to take the initiative to apply.

For further information on military educational benefits such as, Tuition Assistance and the Post 9/11 GI Bill, contact the Education and Training Section here at 301-981-6377.