IMPLEMENTING SUPPORT FOR STUDENT-VETERANS. The winding down of the war in Iraq coupled with recent amendments to the Post-9/11 GI Bill have led to a substantial increase in military veterans enrolling in college. The bill covers between 40-100 percent of a veteran’s tuition, awards a housing allowance, and includes a book stipend. The benefit has been expanded to include qualifying family members and is available up to 15 years after retirement. The Veteran’s Administration is moving towards an automated system to make eligibility decisions, thereby helping to streamline the process. The number of college-bound veterans is projected to continue to grow over the next years as more veterans and their families take advantage of the increased and easily accessed benefits.
Over 20 new student-veterans arrived on Vermont’s Lyndon State campus in fall 2011, and at least six more are scheduled to begin in spring of 2012.
LSC is implementing services to meet the needs of these returning veterans and is undergoing a shift toward making the college a more “military-friendly” environment. The support begins when the veteran applies to LSC. A full-time veterans administrator is on staff to guide the student through the enrollment process. The College waives both the application fee and the tuition deposit for veterans, and has instituted a “Yellow Ribbon Program” which awards five $2,000 scholarships annually. Veterans from out of state pay the in-state tuition rate.
The support extends to enrolled veterans as well. The Veterans Club was established in fall of 2010, making it one of the few student-veteran run organizations on a Vermont campus. The club seeks to make the transition easier for incoming veterans by “supporting the health, well-being, and social integration of student veterans and their families into the Lyndon community.” The club also aims to enlighten faculty and staff about the inherent “problems, issues, and challenges” each veteran faces in returning to school.
Yet many veterans possess the skills colleges look for in students: they are on time for class, with homework done, polite, no excuses, and fantastic classroom participants. They can be positive role models for traditional undergraduates.
A Veterans Club-sponsored seminar, “Soldier in the Classroom” held on October 25 was well-attended. The audience learned how the issues student-veterans face impact their experiences in and out of the classroom. Counselors from Boston’s Home Base Program gave information about post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. And more than 100 members of the college community attended a memorial service on Veteran’s Day hosted by the Veterans Club.
The Veterans Club has proposed the construction of a Veterans Memorial Park to recognize and honor all Lyndon veterans, past, present and future. The multi-phase project has been cleared in concept by the Campus Planning Committee and Interim President Steven Gold. The club is currently working with the College to determine a design and location.