Veteran Friendly Schools
What defines a Veteran Friendly School, Veteran Friendly College or Veteran Friendly University or Veteran Friendly Vocational School?
Although there are several criteria that could be used in order to rate or compare what defines Veteran friendly schools, colleges and universities, the most pertinent conditions are those that affect the student veteran’s overall college experience. “Veteran or Military Friendly School” is not a specific title that includes a set of rubrics an institution must adhere to in order to maintain a status. Rather, Vet friendly from my perspective is a school that at minimum has a dedicated Veteran Resource Center (VRC), V.A. Certifying Official on-site and has programs in place that promote success for veterans. Student veterans’ decisions to attend a particular institution are also influenced by how advantageous the school’s Veteran friendly reputation has proved for alumni and current veteran students.
Veteran Resource Centers or “Vet Centers” are places on a campus where student veterans and dependents can go for help filling out paperwork or questions about their benefits. Some Veteran Resource Centers also host skill building workshops that address issues related to the transition from soldier to student such as studying skills, dealing with stress and resume building to name a few. Veteran Resource Centers can also be a place where veterans can interact with other veterans through the Student Veterans Organization or on break between classes. A Veteran Resource Center can be a relief from the hustle and bustle happening on the rest of campus.
A V.A. Certifying Official is a resident expert on matters pertaining to veteran educational benefits, military credit evaluation, ACE and CLEP programs, Yellow Ribbon, et cetera. Certifiers act as a liaison between the V.A. G.I. Bill and student veterans attending the college. When a Certifier is located on campus there is likelihood that students will have the ability to ask questions for clarity from the Certifier as well as ensure that they have accurately completed documents prior to submitting them. Although it can be more convenient if the V.A. Certifying Official is located in the Veteran Resource Center it depends on the size of the school whether separate offices are adequate. Veterans want to be assured that there is a V.A. Certifying Official on-site that can simplify the minutia that is inevitable when dealing with paperwork related to G.I. Bill benefits.
The desired result most student veterans expect from attaining a degree in higher education is finding a career within their chosen discipline. It would behoove schools to have programs in place that enrich student veterans’ success skills. The programs that this can include are extensive and should be tailored to the community that a school serves. Examples of programs would be employment assistance/job placement, veteran internships and counseling resources. Programs should address potential hindrances and challenges that student veterans are more likely to face than traditional students. This will not only be an investment for the success of the students, but the achievement of the school.
A large majority of veteran students are already married, have children, home mortgages, and even civilian careers. For this reason, many student veterans do not want to be at a four year institution for four years. Because many see higher education as an investment in the future of their families and careers they prefer to flash through courses as quickly as possible in order to meet their goals earlier. Also, since many are already accustomed to working and leading others, the transition to student can feel very foreign and uncomfortable. When veterans are looking at schools, colleges or universities that they are interested attending, regardless if they are on-line or in-person, they need to assess if the institution is able to provide them with what they need in order to be successful beyond the classroom. Student veterans do not want to be coddled, but they do want to know there is support in place. In summary, veterans should look beyond whether an institution uses the title, “Military/Veteran Friendly” and assure themselves that the institution will deliver on its promises as a friend of veterans.
Bio of Joseph Vasquez
Joe joined the military at age 17, and has served in three branches of the military: Marine Corps, Army and Air National Guard. After earning his degree and licensure in Mortuary Science, he worked in the Funeral Service profession, but then decided he would rather serve his community in a different capacity. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Communication and hopes to work with not-for-profits that specialize in assisting Veterans. Joe is married and the proud father of 2 beautiful girls.