Are you considering going to college under the GI Bill? Then you might consider a degree from one of the better universities in Thailand. You can save a lot of money, make your university years an exciting experience, and have an education with an international perspective. Few prospective university students using the GI Bill consider getting their education overseas, but there are definite advantages to doing so. You can get an excellent international education at a fraction of the cost in the US, plus the housing money the GI Bill gives you often allows a student to live at a very high standard. Attending school at a university can be a lot more fun if the student lives in a luxury apartment and can afford to enjoy what the city can offer.
The GI Bill is one of the best benefits of being a US military vet. I myself was able to attend a good university because of that and garnered a couple of valuable degrees, which was something that was far beyond any possibility for me prior to joining up in the military service. The Post 9/11 GI Bill is generous and flexible, and any recent young vet of the military would be foolish to not take advantage of it. The current bill is flexible covering almost any kind of school that provides training for future employment within the US, and also includes approved programs in colleges and universities outside of the country. There are many programs at universities in Thailand that have been approved, and these should be considered by any vet that is thinking of taking advantage of this program.
Under the current GI Bill, tuition is paid directly to the university, with a maximum limit much higher than is needed for a university in Thailand. So you won’t be paying any tuition cost.
The GI Bill then gives you an allowance for housing and living costs of $1429 per month. If you are familiar with the rental market for condo apartments in Thailand, you know that this is much more than needed even in the most expensive areas of Thailand. A typical modern studio apartment in Bangkok with internet, cable TV, a pool, security, parking, a fitness center and is furnished may set you back $400 per month, but probably less. You would be living at a much higher level than you could ever get anywhere back home on your housing allowance.
And then the GI Bill pays you for your cost of books and materials of up to $1000 per year, which is more than enough.
Back in the US, someone studying at a high level university is likely to need to supplement their benefits with a student loan or a side job just to cover their monthly costs. It would be highly unlikely that you would need to do that in Thailand, and you would live at a much higher level.
But understand, the GI Bill will NOT pay for airfare to Thailand or for freight charges if you are shipping personal goods for your Thai home. There are service companies that want to work with vets establishing them in foreign schools that will handle airfares and freight (basically holding your hand) but I do not recommend them. In any case, the GI Bill will not pay for third party services.
A VA office anywhere is very helpful in going over the details. The VA has counselors that are vets themselves that are very good at what they do, but the system is not all that difficult to work around yourself. It takes a little while to get it set up, with a bit of paperwork, supplying them with information about the school and talking with different VA offices, but after a couple of months and it is up and running for you, it is pretty much on auto pilot with very few hassles that ever come up during your education time.
Understand that when you do not attend the school because of a vacation period, the GI Bill will not be paying you. Universities in Thailand do not have a traditional 3-month summer vacation that is common in the US, but does have a couple of months of vacation divided between two periods (Spring and Fall). During those times, you will have to fend for yourself, but that is the same as in the US during their holidays.
Your first step would be to go to the local VA offices and request some help. If you are not near an office, there are phone numbers with VA people there to help you get started. Check out the VA website that shows you all the benefits you have as a vet.
The second step would be to fly off to Thailand and meet with different universities. Make it a learning vacation where you see apartments, experience street food and see what life is like living there. Most of the best universities are in Bangkok, and that is one of the most dynamic cities on Earth. It is safe as any US city (probably safer) and it has literally everything in the world available. It is a modern city steeped in Thai traditions, and every day living there will be an adventure.
Once you have got it settled with the university, you will meet with the counselors at the school that will assist you in what you need to get started. They will handle the VA paperwork for the tuition, qualify you for the school (which may have you take a test or two) and assist you in the integration at the university.
Then you will need to work with VA for the program with the housing allowance. You could make all the arrangements from within Thailand, of fly back to the US and go back to that VA office loaded with all the specifics of what you want to do. Certainly this project requires a bit more work than if you just went to college in your home town, but the benefits of a truly international education at a good Thai university can make it well worth it. Figure on somewhere between 2 and 6 months to have the VA benefits set up and running smoothly. But you are dealing with the government, so relax when you hit a glitch or two in the road. With a few calls, any glitch can be solved, but you have to remain patient whenever you are dealing with big bureaucracies like the VA.
The Thai Universities that are approved by the VA are listed on this page on the VA veterans affairs website: Thailand approved universities.
Don’t Speak Thai? Don’t worry about it. Most of these high level universities have an international program (usually an International College within the university campus) with all classes taught in English. Your student colleagues will be from all around the world, most of them from high income, influential families in their own country. Coming from all over Asia and the Middle East and elsewhere, it makes a very diverse student body, all using English as the common language. You will make very valuable relationships who will eventually return to their country and develop into the leaders in business and government in their home countries. You won’t get that in most universities in the US, and it is hard to put a value on those relationships for the future, but it is very high.
You may want to learn Thai in any case to get the most from your stay in Thailand. That’s easy to do with Thai language classes offered at your university, or you can use one of hundreds of private Thai language schools for expats that are all over the country.
Is the degree worth the same as in the US? Absolutely! The universities approved by in the VA in Thailand are of the highest level, and their degrees are recognized worldwide. If you wanted to get your undergraduate degree (BA/BS) from these universities and to study post grad back in the US, your Thai degree from these high level universities will be as good (or better) than from most universities in the US.
My stepdaughter who is a dual Thai/US citizen attends one of these better universities in Bangkok. She graduated from a US high school and while she a Thai by ethnicity, she is as American as any kid from California. She is excelling in her studies towards a BA in business and wouldn’t want to trade her school for any US university. Bangkok is an amazing city for a young person, with diversity like no other place in the world. The nightlife, shopping and life experiences are amazing compared to anywhere else.
One big difference between universities in Thailand and the US are uniforms. Students have a required dress code, and there is just no way around that. For guys, that means a white shirt — short sleeve or long sleeve —, black slacks, and dark leather shoes. For some universities, guys are also required to wear a tie. For girls, it is a black skirt and white blouse with dark leather shoes. It is a Thai tradition that students at every level wear spiffy student clothing, and it won’t change. Maybe many Americans would object to this, but that’s because it is the norm in America to dress anyway you want and make statements with how you dress. In Thailand, looking sharp, clean, and well groomed is very appreciated, and the opposite (which you find at most US colleges) is not.
Visas. With a US passport, you can come to Thailand and get automatically a 30 day stay for the country. After you have selected your university and signed up, you are eligible for a one year educational visa. You will have to stop by the immigration office once every 3 months to let them know you are still in Thailand, and this educational visa is renewed each year with the school. You are able to leave Thailand (like on a holiday trip to Cambodia or anywhere else) and come back in with no hassles. The cost of an educational visa is 18000Baht (a little more than USD $600) per year, and that is NOT paid by the GI Bill.
There is a lot of preparation needed before anyone relocates to Thailand, and fortunately there are loads of website (like this one) that can give tips on living in this country. Moving to Asia is not for everyone, but for those that are flexible and appreciate the differences, living in Thailand can be an experience that will be with you all your life, giving you a perspective that the less adventurous will never have.
What Universities would I recommend? I am not any kind of an expert on Thai universities, and there are plenty of websites that can give you more information that I am able to do, but I can give you the names of a few that have such an outstanding reputation that most people in education and business recognize them. These are some that I would definitely consider:
Mahidol University – very prestigious university just outside of Bangkok, noted especially for medicine, international business and hospitality management studies. The university actually operates a luxury hotel on the campus run by the students. This is a most impressive very large university to visit.
Chulalongkorn University (aka Chula University) – this school is especially known for their business administration programs.
Assumption University – this is a large private Catholic university that is especially noted for their business management programs. Very expensive by Thai standards, and you will rubbing shoulders with the students from the best families in the country.
Bangkok University – this is a private university noted for their computer academic programs and architectural design college, and other creative arts.
Bangkok University Is Way Cooler Than Your School - Kotaku – 25 September 2013
Webster University – this is a Missouri (US) based university with a Thailand campus. As it is US oriented, it is also easy for an America vet to integrate into.