Education -- a crucial choice

  • Published
  • By Col. William A. Thomas Jr.
  • 49th Medical Group Commander
Famous words you may already know are, "all men are created equal." Have you ever asked yourself what happens next? How is it that although we are all created equal, we all end up with such different outcomes? While there are some genetic differences at work which make us individuals and constrain us to some extent -- the outcomes we get are due to the choices that we make.

I'd like to focus on one set of choices in particular that has a tremendous bearing on what you will become, what your social standing will be and even what will become of your children. The choices we make in our pursuit of learning have a profound impact on our lives. Our nation has given us great opportunities for public education and every citizen has a provision for basic education. Whether you attended a public or private school and whether or not you received a high-school diploma, it's what you make of the opportunity and what you do beyond it that counts.

Our Air Force recognizes the importance of education. Continued learning not only provides benefits to the individual and to the organization, but as the culture of education is embraced, it strengthens families for generations and strengthens our nation. As an Airman serving our country, the educational benefits may have been one of the reasons you pursued a career in the Armed Forces. You should already know that your enlisted career development courses and on-the-job training count toward college credit. Just taking one or two classes per year can lead you to an Associate's Degree from the Community College of the Air Force before the end of your first enlistment. After that, tuition free programs offered on or near your base or by distance learning can culminate in a bachelor's or master's degree from an accredited university program.

Educational benefits aren't only limited to the active duty member. Spouses' benefits are generous and funds are available in the form of grants through a benefit account. The Montgomery and Post 9/11 GI bills also provide funding for educational opportunities that can be used by the service member or transferred to one of their dependents. According to data from the United States Census bureau, a person who has completed a bachelor's degree can be expected to earn about $1 million more over a life time than someone with only a high-school diploma. Master's and doctoral degrees earn their holders $2 million and $4 million more respectively.

When you consider that the cost of tuition for military members is free or substantially reduced, the value of the time that you spend working toward your degree is even greater.

Yes, "all men are created equal," however, it's the education that stratifies them.

Contact the Holloman AFB Education Center at 575-572-3971 for more information on the educational programs available to you and your family.