Veterans centers gain popularity at Ohio colleges
Army veteran Buck Clay found that adjusting to college life after years in the military wasn’t easy. That’s why he welcomes efforts by Ohio universities and colleges to provide more help for student veterans trying to make that transition.
Some campuses are developing one-stop veteran services centers and other ways to better support thousands of veterans seeking degrees around Ohio as more troops return from overseas.
“A lot of veterans who get discouraged trying to adapt to a campus environment from the more regimented military culture just give up,” said Clay, a 31-year-old former Army staff sergeant who served in Iraq and Kosovo. “We need a sense of community and support to help with the academic and emotional challenges.”
Clay attends the University of Cincinnati, which opened its Veterans One Stop Center this month. The center will provide more centralized information and access to services such as tutoring, academic and psychological counseling, disability services and career development. It also helps students with the essential task of getting certified, the approval process required to ensure they take the necessary number and types of courses and are eligible for military benefits.
The increase in student veterans has been attributed to the large numbers of returning troops and to the post-9/11 GI Bill. The 2008 legislation expanded benefits for tuition and other educational expenses for veterans, their dependents and active military personnel.
As of early November, more than 470,000 individuals nationwide were enrolled in educational programs using those benefits and more than 22,000 in Ohio used them in 2011, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says.
Trustees at Youngstown State University recently approved a resolution to “explore the viability of raising sufficient funds to build” a veterans center on campus.
UC students benefiting from the GI bill have doubled from about 500 in 2008 to more than 1,000, and the school believes its center will make veterans “feel like they are now getting complete wraparound services,” said Debra Merchant, associate vice president of student services.
UC is also trying to develop a co-ed veterans fraternity so student veterans can network with others sharing similar experiences and goals, Merchant said.
Ohio State University recently opened its new comprehensive Office of Military and Veterans Services to cater to the needs of more than 2,000 students receiving benefits, up from just over 800 four years ago.