10 Veteran-Friendly Schools To Consider In 2014

Petty Officer 1st Class Sean McGill (left) reenlists in the U.S. Coast Guard on the 50-yard line of Bobby Bowden Field on the campus of Florida State University.
Photo by U.S. Coast Guard District 7

The transition from soldier to student can be difficult for veterans to say the least. There seems to be numerous bureaucratic hoops to jump through to receive education benefits, the admissions process can be daunting, and then there is the immersion into an environment that can often feel alienating and foreign to a veteran. Most schools today say they are “vet-friendly,” but what does that really mean?

At Task & Purpose, we’ve put together a list of schools that have stood out in 2014 for their supportive and mentoring services to veterans, active support groups and orientation courses. Additionally, each school has done something extra to welcome veteran students into their community.

1. Eastern Kentucky University: Eastern Kentucky has been listed in the top 20% of military-friendly schools for the last five years by Victory Media. This is largely because the college has taken it upon itself to offer vets, regardless of test scores, admission into the university, followed by a specialized look at how each student veteran can best benefit academically from special assistance if needed. The school also waives the admission fee for all incoming undergraduate veterans, and accepts military training for college credit or American Council Education credits, as well as Defense Activity for Nontraditional Education Support and College Level Examination Program scores, which can be helpful for those who have served on active-duty bases. Eastern Kentucky has also established a veterans studies program that allows all students to take courses about veterans’ culture and the transition from the battlefield to campus, in an effort to create a foundation of mutual understanding between civilians and veterans.

2. Rutgers University: This university has a unique and proud heritage of supporting veterans since the Revolutionary War. The Department of Veterans Affairs even designated Rutgers a “VetSuccess On Campus University” and assigned a full-time VA employee to work out of the Rutgers Veterans House. Rutgers also has a veterans orientation program that allows vets to meet and network with other veterans who are familiar with the university and its programs. In addition, it offers a mentoring program, pairing a Rutgers veteran with a new incoming student, allowing new students to get a handle on community and campus life.

3. California State University in San Bernardino: CSU offers a wide array of support for student veterans. Most notable is its veterans success center, a 1,200-square foot facility that provides ample space for students to study, receive mental health support, campus orientation, or a space to just hang out. It has an active student veteran group that meets weekly to support those veterans in transition and has a long history of supporting active duty-military personnel and their dependents. Additionally, mandatory system-wide tuition and fees at any California state university are waived for veterans.

4. University of Nebraska, Omaha: Nebraska not only supports the Yellow Ribbon Program for those eligible, it also has a very active chapter of Student Veterans of America, and a unique veterans office that is located on Offutt Air Force Base with a full-time VA employee. It was voted the #2 “Best for Vets” four-year school in the Military Times and offers a wide array of degree options through its online program. This is especially helpful for those service members still on active duty or even still deployed.

5. Florida State University: Every year, Florida State hosts a orientation specifically tailored to the needs of incoming veteran students. It also boasts an active student veteran population that is known for its annual veteran film festival. Florida State participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program and has a veterans resource center for mentoring and counseling.

6. University of Missouri: The University of Missouri not only supports the Yellow Ribbon Program, it also has a veterans office, and campus support group. For Missouri residents looking to work towards their undergraduate degree, it is also supports a unique scholarship program: the Missouri Returning Heroes Education Act, which requires Missouri public postsecondary institutions to limit eligible combat veterans' tuition to $50 per credit hour.

7. Texas A&M;: Texas A&M; was originally founded as a military institution and therefore has a unique and proud heritage of military and veteran students. It boasts a large veteran population and resource center. For Texas residents, A&M; offers the Hazelwood exemption, which exempts up to 150 credit hours for all veterans. It also accepts military training as credit and has a veteran graduation rate of 80%.

8. Syracuse University: Syracuse’s long history serving veterans started with the “uniform admissions program,” which gave admission to all service members returning from war in 1946. The university participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, as well as the Vetsuccess On Campus program through the VA. More importantly, Syracuse spear-headed the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. It is the first national organization of its kind, focusing on the benefits of obtaining a higher education and growing the social capital of this generation of veterans. IVMF’s mission is “to fully leverage the intellectual, human and social capital of higher education, in service to America’s veterans and their families” and does so through various programs promoting business, the arts, and entrepreneurship in the veterans community. This includes the veterans transition career program, which assists vets, at no cost, in translating their military skills into a competitive profile in the civilian world.

9. University of Maryland University College: Over 55,000 vets and military service members attend UMUC, making it one of the largest student veteran bodies in the country. This is largely due to its vast online program, which is growing in popularity. Not only does UMUC have online courses, but it also boasts 20+ locations in the Washington, D.C. area. It allows up to 60 transfer credits from military training and provides advisors specifically trained on veteran issues such as navigating the GI Bill, tuition assistance programs, and what academic program will best serve the veteran in a future career.

10. University of Pittsburgh: Pitt recently caught our attention for its work prioritizing the needs of nontraditional students, including veterans. The Office of Veterans Services organizes workshops to develop civilian and federal resumes, conducts mock interviews, arranges career fairs for students veterans. It also works closely with local employers to seek out careers for its veteran students. Its website says it only has 540 registered veterans in its system, however, this means more specialized attention for the veteran community and also an opportunity to integrate with civilian students.

Tessa Poppe is a graduate student at Georgetown University, focusing on sub-state violence. She works as a research assistant on gender-relations in the military and is a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)

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Marine Maj. Jose J. Anzaldua Jr. spent more than three years during the height of the Vietnam War. Now, more than 45 years after his release, Sig Sauer is paying tribute to his service with a special gift.

Sig Sauer on Friday unveiled a unique 1911 pistol engraved with Anzaldua's name, the details of his imprisonment in Vietnam, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" accompanied by the POW-MIA flag on the grip to commemorate POW-MIA Recognition Day.

The gunmaker also released a short documentary entitled "Once A Marine, Always A Marine" — a fitting title given Anzaldua's courageous actions in the line of duty

Marine Maj. Jose Anzaldua's commemorative 1911 pistol

(Sig Sauer)

Born in Texas in 1950, Anzaldua enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam as an intelligence scout assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

On Jan. 23, 1970, he was captured during a foot patrol and spent 1,160 days in captivity in various locations across North Vietnam — including he infamous Hỏa Lò Prison known among American POWs as the "Hanoi Hilton" — before he was freed during Operation Homecoming on March 27, 1973.

Anzaldua may have been a prisoner, but he never stopped fighting. After his release, he received two Bronze Stars with combat "V" valor devices and a Prisoner of War Medal for displaying "extraordinary leadership and devotion to his companions" during his time in captivity. From one of his Bronze Star citations:

Using his knowledge of the Vietnamese language, he was diligent, resourceful, and invaluable as a collector of intelligence information for the senior officer interned in the prison camp.

In addition, while performing as interpreter for other United States prisoners making known their needs to their captors, [Anzaldua] regularly, at the grave risk of sever retaliation to himself, delivered and received messages for the senior officer.

On one occasion, when detected, he refused to implicate any of his fellow prisoners, even though severe punitive action was expected.

Anzaldua also received a Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his heroism in December 1969, when he entered the flaming wreckage of a U.S. helicopter that crashed nearr his battalion command post in the country's Quang Nam Province and rescued the crew chief and a Vietnamese civilian "although painfully burned himself," according to his citation.

After a brief stay at Camp Pendleton following his 1973 release, Anzaldua attended Officer Candidate School at MCB Quantico, Virginia, earning his commission in 1974. He retired from the Corps in 1992 after 24 years of service.

Sig Sauer presented the commemorative 1911 pistol to Anzaldua in a private ceremony at the gunmaker's headquarters in Newington, New Hampshire. The pistol's unique features include:

  • 1911 Pistol: the 1911 pistol was carried by U.S. forces throughout the Vietnam War, and by Major Anzaldua throughout his service. The commemorative 1911 POW pistol features a high-polish DLC finish on both the frame and slide, and is chambered in.45 AUTO with an SAO trigger. All pistol engravings are done in 24k gold;
  • Right Slide Engraving: the Prisoner of War ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor and "Major Jose Anzaldua" engravings;
  • Top Slide Engraving: engraved oak leaf insignia representing the Major's rank at the time of retirement and a pair of dog tags inscribed with the date, latitude and longitude of the location where Major Anzaldua was taken as a prisoner, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" taken from the POW-MIA flag;
  • Left Side Engraving: the Vietnam War service ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor engraving;
  • Pistol Grips: anodized aluminum grips with POW-MIA flag.

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(U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

Editor's Note: This article by Richard Sisk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

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