In September 2016, Laura Piscopo led a program during our GBVC summit to discuss issues in education that are impacting today’s student veterans. We heard from institutions that are providing dynamic opportunities for veterans on campus to be successful in transitioning home and building their skill set. Speakers included not only representatives of programs on the campus of our host UMass Boston — specifically, Veterans Upward Bound, Student Health Services, and the student veterans organization — but also representatives from VA VITAL, North Bennet Street School and Northeastern University.
In our breakout discussions, we encouraged our small groups to discuss a variety of questions delving into the student veteran experience. Outlined here are the major themes of these discussions.
HOW CAN WE BETTER UNDERSTAND THE VALUE OF “WORTH OF MOUTH” AMONG THE VETERAN COMMUNITY?
- Consider an institution’s website. Does it speak “veteran”? Does it show veteran constituencies or allude to a shared experience?
- Similarly, consider how institutions can leverage online platforms, from social media to Rally Point.
- Consider how stakeholders can complement word of mouth by building bridges between VSOs and institutions. This could include leveraging transition times to provide resources at the first point of a servicemember’s exit.
- Consider how institutions can utilize orientations to provide resources to veterans on campus and ensure that a community is forged among one another.
- Consider ways that institutions can be more family friendly, as many student veterans might have families of their own.
- Institutions might want to pull together a list of “battle buddies”: allies and connections on and off campus so that student veterans have a ready-made network available to them.
HOW CAN SCHOOLS BEST PREP ADMISSIONS REPS TO WORK WITH PROSPECTIVE STUDENT VETERANS?
- Remember it has to be an institutional effort to bring student veterans into the fold.
- Admissions reps need to be equipped with the language of a veteran. They need to be familiar with paperwork, acronyms and other inside knowledge.
- Admissions reps should meet veterans where they are, especially as they’re first transitioning out of the military, to show them options and opportunities.
- Institutions must be mindful that it “doesn’t end after admissions.” It is vital to have mentorships and orientations that continue supporting veterans once they become students.
- Institutions can encourage prospective student veterans to speak to current student veterans or alumni so they have a firsthand account of the on-campus experience.
- Admissions offices might explore ways they can have access to military software to provide student veterans with the ability to get their needed paperwork while on campus.
HOW CAN CAREER SERVICES DEPARTMENTS TAILOR SERVICES TO STUDENT VETERANS?
- Career services offices should focus on career planning, not job planning, particularly for the veteran population on campus. They should be mindful of the unique experiences veterans bring to the workforce, and should be advocating to the business community on their behalf.
- Institutions should leverage alumni network and corporate partners to help support transition skills and provide student veterans with opportunities post-graduation.
- Career services departments should equip student veterans with knowledge of the rights they have in the workforce. For example, veterans seeking care at the VA should have the necessary information in hand to advocate to their employer their right to attend medical appointments as needed.
- Departments or offices might consider hiring a student veteran so that their expertise and insight is available for fellow veterans on campus.
HOW CAN STUDENT VETERANS AND UNIVERSITIES APPROACH THE ISSUE OF FOR-PROFIT SCHOOLS, PARTICULARLY IF A STUDENT VETERAN IS PERSONALLY AFFECTED?
- Institutions should be encouraged to look at students individually to assess their need as well as any challenges they might have had with a for-profit school.
- Institutions might consider ways they can offer scholarships or special funding to help offset issues arising from for-profit schools.
- Note: Harvard’s Legal Services clinic and the Attorney General’s office are working on a case related to for-profit predatory lending. For more information, visit: http://www.legalservicescenter.org/.
HOW CAN SCHOOLS SUPPORT STUDENT VETERANS (AND DEPENDENTS) WHO MIGHT BE ADVERSELY AFFECTED BY BAH CUTS?
For students, the Monthly Housing Allowance, often referred to as BAH, is generally the same as the military Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for an E-5 with dependents. Your MHA is based on the ZIP code for your school. MHA rate increases based on BAH increases are effective August 1 (the beginning date of the academic year). Read more here.
- Stakeholders should consider ways they can measure the economic impact of BAH cuts on the Greater Boston area. Can stakeholders on campus advocate directly to the government the importance of this funding for veterans, their families and the community?
- Institutions might consider ways they can offer loans and/or subsidize housing should such cuts go into effect and/or prioritize veterans for scholarships.
- Programs and offices should provide resources to student veterans for budget planning.
Speakers at the September 29th summit were:
- David Merson, Director, UMass Boston’s Veterans Upward Bound
- Alisa Bennett, Program Manager, VA VITAL Program
- Jose Ramirez, Public Health Nurse, Infection Controls, UMass Boston Student Health Services
- Rob O’Dwyer, Director of Admissions/Student Success, North Bennet Street School
- Garrett Dubois, UMass Boston’s Student Veteran Organization
- Andy McCarty, Director of the Center for the Advancement of Veterans and Servicemembers, Northeastern University