to ease transition to college life
Sixty-five years ago, the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly known as the GI Bill of Rights, radically changed the course of American society forever. Its benefits put college education and home ownership within the reach of most Americans — nearly impossible dreams prior to World War II. By the end of 1956, nearly 8 million veterans had attended college using their GI Bill benefits. Through subsequent versions of the bill, millions more have been able to pursue higher education.
Now, through the newly enacted Post-9/11 GI Bill, student-veterans are finding the most generous education benefits available to them since WWII. It is anticipated that the student-veteran population on America's campuses will increase 25 percent this year alone, to nearly 500,000 students. Two million veterans may be eligible for benefits over the next decade. Here at UA, we have more than 600 student-veterans receiving educational benefits through the Veterans Administration. That number does not include all our student-veterans because many receive other forms of tuition assistance. We can expect their numbers to grow because Ohio offers an in-state tuition rate to military veterans, their spouses and children from any state.
UA, like so many colleges and universities across the country, is working hard to ensure that returning veterans feel welcome as they begin or finish undergraduate and graduate degrees. UA's commitment begins with President Luis M. Proenza, who has declared it his goal to make, “The University of Akron the most veteran-friendly campus in Ohio.” To do so, we must all recognize that student-veterans face different challenges than traditional college students, or even other nontraditional students. To better serve our student-veterans, we have established the following:
- Veterans Steering Committee;
- veterans services coordinator;
- Military Veterans Association for student-veterans;
- faculty brown-bag presentations on student-veteran issues;
- Military Services Center, within the Office of the University Registrar to assist with enrollment services and obtaining VA educational benefits; and
- learning community and peer mentor program for incoming student-veterans (in development).
We've also established a gathering place for our student-veterans. On Monday, Nov. 2, at 10 a.m., the Student-Veterans R&R Lounge will officially open, temporarily, on the lower level of the Student Union. It will have comfortable seating, coffee, tables, desks, computers with Internet access and a TV. In fall 2010, the R&R Lounge will move to permanent quarters in InfoCision Stadium.
In my role as veterans services coordinator, I am focused on helping the transition into campus life. In a typical day, that could range from individual meetings with student-veterans to leading a presentation for faculty on best practices to helping organize activities for student-veterans and their families. I also am building relationships with local agencies and organizations to benefit our student-veterans.
I believe The University of Akron is making significant progress to achieving Dr. Proenza's goal.
Janet Corey is a 21-year U.S. Navy veteran. She retired from the U.S. Naval Reserve as a commander and came to UA on Aug. 1 through AmeriCorps*VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America). She also is the Blue Star Mother of an active-duty enlisted sailor.
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