Tuesday, November 22, 2011
UNT ranks among most veteran-friendly universities
Determining factors for being a Military Friendly College are decided by a survey of 500 student veterans.
For the second year in a row, Military Times EDGE magazine listed UNT among the best national four-year colleges for veterans, although its ranking dropped 37 spots from No. 6 in 2010 to No. 43 this year.
Though it is ranked lower, employees at UNT’s Veterans Center give little thought to the ranking, and instead focus on plans to help student veterans, a number which has more than doubled from 1,200 last year to 2,500 this year.
“Every school in the country is trying to respond with resources and education and support for veterans,” assistant vice president for campus life and founding director of the UNT Veterans Center Mona Hicks said. “[Working for the center] has been unlike any other experience I’ve ever had in my career. Everyone is willing to share resources; we’re certainly not going into it with [a competitive] mindset.”
Determining factors for being a Military Friendly College are decided by a survey of 500 student veterans on what they believe to be the most important school services for vets. This year, students voted on several new factors, which were added to the competition, including the Yellow Ribbon Program and Veterans Upward Bound Program.
“Our tuition cap is below what it is in the Yellow Ribbon Program,” Kris Khastehdel said. UNT Student Veterans Association president and UNT Veterans Center peer mentor. “So not being part of the program is a good thing.”
Other factors included residence halls specifically for student veterans, which Khastehdel said would be going too far.
“I can see their reason, but I think it’s an unnecessary expense,” Khastehdel said.
Rather than adding programs to obtain a higher ranking, the center chose to implement its Boots-to-Books program this spring. The program gives student vets financial assistance before receiving their GI Bill money, which can take several weeks to arrive.
“I think this program is very important,” said Adam Haggerty, a music education junior and six-year Army veteran and member of the National Guard. “My first semester I didn’t get my GI [Bill] money for two to three weeks, and luckily, Voertman’s had a similar program or I wouldn’t have had my piano books.”
UNT will also begin offering sensitivity training for students as well as faculty and staff in the spring. Participants will be able to come in pairs, groups or individually to learn about available resources for distressed students, particularly those with PTSD.
“What we found was people want to be supportive, but they don’t know how,” Hicks said. “Some of our larger classes held in Wooten can be high-traffic areas and trigger hyper-vigilant mode for a person who has been in combat. Professors could have a sticker on their door to identify it as a safe place until traffic dies down.”
Hicks said she plans to make training available to faculty and students at orientation to create a friendlier environment from the moment students enter campus. Though the two programs are expected to make the transition from service to student much easier, just having the Veterans Center is enough for some students.
“I guess the best resource I found was the people,” Haggerty said. “Finding people to talk to, who have had the same experiences as you.”
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