I wanted to focus this article on the application process for the free college benefit program that the LVPPA has secured through a partnership with Washington National. Many of our officers have taken advantage of the program, and hopefully many more will do the same.
To start, our officers need to go to the LVPPA website at LVPPA.com (via a desktop computer, not a phone) and select Members > Free College Benefit. From there, you will be prompted to click on the “Learn More” button, which takes you to the LVPPA Benefits Supersite (mybensite.com/lvppa). This is where the process starts. This page provides a lot of information on the program. It has two links, one for the associate degree program and one for the bachelor’s degree program. For the associate program, you will be directed to Eastern Gateway Community College, where I currently attend. (Go Edugators!) The bachelor’s program will run through the same Eastern Gateway Community College page, but you will instead select Bachelor’s Degree on the top of the home page.
To apply to the associate program or the bachelor’s program, you will be required to first complete some registration information. The next step is filling out the FAFSA form at FAFSA.ed.gov. This is federal financial aid, which odds are no LVPPA member will qualify for due to our income. However, if by some chance you do, the aid money would go to the school. This is the trade-off for free college education through the schools.
Now that the FAFSA form is done and submitted, you will eventually get an email from the school informing you that you can enroll in classes. First, if you want an associate degree that credits your Academy time and/or your instructor development class, contact LVMPD training to get an email copy of your Academy courses as well as your instructor development certificate. These two documents could give you between 30 to 33 credits toward your associate degree in criminal justice. The associate in criminal justice with police academy credit is the only degree program where Academy time can be applied. You may still get an associate degree in anything that the school offers, but you won’t get all of the free Academy credits. You will then email the school your high school transcript or GED. You may also send over other college credits to have them applied.
Once this is done, you can start picking out your classes for the coming semester. You have the choice, through the school’s website, to control what and how many classes you want to take. You must maintain a C average to get your degree.
As I am currently doing the associate program myself, I can say it is time consuming. Some classes are easier than others. Since each semester is accelerated, the school packs 16 weeks’ worth of classes into eight weeks. There is no live instruction; instead, each week/module has reading material, videos and examples. During the week, you will typically need to participate in one or two discussion topics and respond to one or two classmates’ posts. This is how “attendance” is taken. There will also usually be a quiz, test or written assignment due every week. If you take statistics, let me warn you, it sucks! I am kidding. The class was very tough and took up most of my free time during the week, but a lot of good information was obtained.
Hopefully, some of this information has been useful. This does not cover every aspect of the process or experience; rather, it should give you some good guidance on how to maneuver in the online college space. I am entering my third semester. So far, I am very glad I have gone back to school. It is rewarding to me personally, and it is rewarding to my kids, who see me, their dad, at my age, with my busy job and family, still attending college.
Getting an education is something no one can take away from you. I told one officer that while the journey may seem long, time is going to go by regardless of how you feel. In that time, what we put into it is what is important. If it takes six years to get a degree at whatever pace you are working at, six years is going to pass anyway. What you put into those six years is what will count. Give college a try. Maybe it will work for you, or maybe it won’t. However, there are many benefits to getting that college degree, especially as it relates to promoting on our agency.