Transitioning Our ReturningVeteran Students: How Can We Help Them? Sharon A. Lobdell, M.A. University of Michigan-Dearborn MCPA 2012 Annual Conference
BackgroundO Veteran students have distinct needs and life experiences that must be addressed in order for them to successfully complete their academic career.O A campus that is truly “military-friendly” should create and monitor specific policies and programs for veteran students.O Our campuses need to assess how well we are bridging the gap between student veteran needs and services provided by Student Affairs.O Active-duty, National Guard and Reservists, Veterans and their Dependents make up this population on our campuses.O The State of Michigan ranks 11th nationally in veteran population (703,970), representing 7.1% of the state population.
Veterans Success TeamO Formed on the University of Michigan-Dearborn campus in 2009.O Part of our Student Success Center.O Members include representatives from Academic Support, Career Services, Enrollment Services, Financial Aid, Cashiers/Student Accounting, Counseling and Disability Services, and Women’s Resource Center.O Will be expanding membership to include Admissions/Orientation, Student Life, and Faculty.O The VST is a group dedicated to providing information and resources for all branches of the military, including active duty, National Guard or Reserve, and discharged Vets at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.O UM-Dearborn was just named to the Military-Friendly Schools list by G.I. Jobs Magazine.
Who are these Student Veterans? O Many veterans are not self- disclosing and are not utilizing the resources available to them on campus. O They are highly motivated and goal oriented. O They are self-sufficient, and at times don’t want to ask for help O They are adjusting to the loss of the military hierarchical structure they were accustomed to. O They are not demanding, but they want to know that their voices are heard. O They have been part of a disciplined environment and have proven they have a strong work ethic.
Who are these Student Veterans? O For female veterans, this identity isn’t their primary identity, especially if they had to leave their family. O At times, female veterans will not disclose their status. O A study by the National Center for Veteran Studies and Student Veterans of America shows that nearly half of student veterans report thinking of suicide and 20% said they had planned to kill themselves.
VA Educational ProgramsO Ch. 30: Montgomery GI Bill (Active Duty)O Ch. 31: Vocational Rehabilitation & EmploymentO Ch. 32: Veteran’s Educational Assistance Program (VEAP)O Ch. 33: Post 9/11 GI BillO Ch. 35: Survivors & Dependents Education AssistanceO Ch. 1606: Montgomery GI Bill (Selected Reserve)O Ch. 1607: Montgomery GI Bill (Selected Reserve)
The Certification ProcessO Veterans receive a percentage of benefits based on their length of active-duty service.O VA benefits can include the following O health benefits/services O compensation and pension benefits O home loan guarantee services O educational benefits O life insurance benefits O Vocational rehabilitation and employment benefits O burial and memorial benefitsO The school certification official is required to process the number of credit hours the student is enrolled as well as the cost of tuition and fees for the term. This process occurs each term, and anytime during a term when the student increases or decreases their number of credit hours.
State and National Veteran DemographicsO Over 800,000 veterans and family members are currently using their G.I. Bill benefits. (Source: SVA 2011 Annual Report)O Veterans are attending over 6,000 institutions of higher learning. (Source: SVA 2011 Annual Report)O By 2020, women veterans will make up at least 10% of the veteran population.O Number of Michigan veterans using G.I. Bill education benefits: 9,344.
What Obstacles Do Veteran Students Deal with on Our Campuses?O They are concerned that if they are seen seeking counseling help that they will be labeled “crazy”.O They were trained to be the “helper” or the “protector,” so they are not accustomed to having someone do this for them.O They want to fit into the mainstream, but at times this is difficult to do.O They need assistance in translating military experience into transferable skills for civilian jobs.O They have to deal with information barriers in that they need data about possible transfer credits, financial aid, and orientation for the campus.
Wounded WarriorsO There is an increased risk of injury and multiple deployments.O Higher numbers of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).O Increase abuse of alcohol and substance abuse (“self- medication”).O Research findings show that nearly 40% of all Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom Veterans may be disabled.O Higher suicide rates. A Department of Defense study shows an 18% increase in the past year. Some risk factors include: O PTSD, Survivor’s Guilt, substance abuse (“self-medicating”), access to firearms, and finances. O Increased alcohol or drug use. O Frequent absences, conflicts, poor performances. O Talk of death, being a burden, loss of meaning or purpose.O Our campuses have limited experience with servicing needs associated with “wounded warriors.”
How Do We Become More Veteran Friendly?O Create a veteran friendly admissions packet.O Develop policies and procedures that support veteran students and encourage them to pursue and complete their degree.O Participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program. This program allows schools to enter into an agreement with the VA to fund tuition and fees in excess of the in-state tuition rate. VA will match each dollar the University contributes.O Participate in the VA Work-study Program.O Accept American Council on Education (ACE) credits.O Provide scholarships and tuition discounts for veteran students and their dependents.O Give them in-state tuition, regardless of what their residency status is.O Allow them to enroll early to ensure they get the courses they need.O Have a one-stop website.
How Do We Become More Veteran Friendly?O Do an annual Veteran’s Day program.O Make adjustments to policies and procedures that accommodate military students called to active duty.O Make sure to get critical information about on and off campus services to the student veteran population.O Modify orientation program.O Develop events that will help to develop a stronger connection between student veterans and faculty/staff.O Create a Student Veteran Lounge or Resource Center.O Create a physical memorial on campus.O Have your Veteran Services Team work with faculty to help them understand student veterans and know when they need help.O Establish a deferred tuition payment plan to accommodate the possible delays in processing TA and VA paperwork.
ResourcesO www.soc.aascu.org O This website is for the Student Veterans of America, a student This is the website for the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges, which serves to help coordinate postsecondary educational opportunities for servicemembersO www.studentveterans.org O This website is for the Student Veterans of America, a student veteran group seeking to provide military veterans with the resources, support, and advocacy needed to succeed in higher education and following graduation.O www.operationvets.com O Operation Vets, LLC is a small business that provides management consulting services to non-profit organizations, higher education institutions, and various organizations that support veterans. OV assists organizations in developing strategies and programs to effectively meet the reintegration issues facing OEF/OIF veterans, focusing on helping them achieve their postsecondary education and career goals. (Taken from their website)
ResourcesO www.vetfriendlytookit.org O This site looks at academic, financial, student life and mental health resourcesO www.ptsd.va.gov/ O This is the National Center for PTSD, part of the Department of Veteran AffairsO www.legion.org/services O The American Legion is the nation’s largest veterans service organization. It provides help with VA claims, assistance in finding employment, support for current members of the military, and financial advice.