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Veterans Day: How colleges are easing leap from war zone to classroom

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"More and more schools are not just saying they are vet-friendly, but really are trying to be helpful," says Brett Morris, a retired lieutenant colonel and now associate director of veterans affairs at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) in Richmond. Military Times EDGE magazine ranked the school No. 1 for vets in 2010.

Here are some ways that EKU and other universities have made life easier for veterans:

•Waiving application fees.

•Offering in-state tuition regardless of residency, since military personnel serve all 50 states.

•Giving priority registration, because veterans may lose educational benefits if they are shut out of courses in their degree plan.

•Granting credit for prior learning in the military.

•Providing tuition-payment extensions and vouchers for textbooks if benefit payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs are delayed.

•Setting up a veterans center.

Most important may be something that can't be mandated – an atmosphere of respect. "The whole student body embraces us," says Ryan Donahue, president of EKU's Student Veterans of America.

But even at EKU, with 675 veterans and current service members on campus, there are pockets of insensitivity to overcome: "The veterans will tell me, 'I had somebody ask me today, did [you] kill anybody?' That's the last question you want to be asked," Mr. Morris says.

To raise awareness, Eastern Kentucky piloted a Veterans Day event that this year has spread to about 170 campuses. During the Remembrance Day National Roll Call on 11/11/11 – an especially symbolic date 10 years after the 9/11 attacks – student veterans and supporters will read the entire list of United States service members who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's about 6,200 names and will take eight hours. A minute of silence will be observed at 2 p.m., Eastern time.

EKU's ceremony, which will be held right outside the student center, will include a rifle salute and the playing of taps and "Amazing Grace."

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