We have all seen the phrase, “freedom is not free,” and our service men and women understand this more than anyone. They spend time and energy, and they sacrifice comfort and even their lives. We have all dreaded this truth, the reality that college is not free, even for veterans.

The GI bill covers many college expenses for people who have served in our military. However, most institutions have fees that can make it hard for veterans to pursue a degree once they have transitioned back to civilian life.

The folks at Combat2College have a passion for military men and women who seek higher education. This program was started here in Jacksonville in the winter of 2012, in order to address the needs of veteran students.

Nathan Rey, the development executive vice president of Combat2College simplified what the organization does by stating, “We offer the extra assistance they may need when their VA benefits have been delayed or exhausted.”

They offer multiple services for the vets that attend any North Florida School. The Textbook Assistance Program (TAPs) acts to provide grants for textbooks and supplies that are not covered by the GI bill. They also give gift cards and grants to veterans when life happens and they need some extra help while in school.

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The College Board estimates that the average student in this country spends around $1,200 a year on books

College is an experience, and transitioning from military to civilian life is an undertaking. Imagine merging the two. The team at Combat2College seeks to ease the shock of postsecondary institutions.

Nathan Rey speaks highly of Brad Ross, the man who, as the executive director, has, “Gone the extra mile to ensure veterans get the proper assistance needed to have a successful college experience.”

Let’s face it, navigating through the application process, financial aid offices, and trying to pay attention during lectures is daunting. According to the Combat2College folks, the most valuable of the services offered by this team is a mentorship program from seasoned vets who understand the challenges that they may face in school and life, after service.

Combat2College takes the load off veterans wanting to pursue higher education and paves their way to success.

Additionally, they have tutoring services for every vet they serve. The offices are located at Florida State College of Jacksonville, but they work to provide aid to veterans in every college in Northeast Florida.

Having to figure out the complexities of the university system is not for the faint of heart. Combat2College takes the load off of veterans wanting to pursue higher education and paves their way to success. The organization is a means of transition, serving those who have selflessly served our country. Passion is apparent in this team of volunteers. Every person that is a part of Combat2College receives no compensation. Every dime earned by the non-profit goes to benefitting and assisting veteran students. They host multiple events throughout the year that raise proceeds and further promote their mission.

To learn more about this group of individuals and how you can contribute, head to their website or check out their Facebook page for a list of upcoming events.

Civilian life is so often taken for granted, and living in a free country where public universities and educational institutions exist is a luxury. Let’s be thankful to our service men and women who help ensure our freedom, and raise our glasses to Combat2College for taking care of our veterans’ postsecondary dreams.

By Emily Simpson | Contributor