CSU is expecting an influx of war veterans on campus, pending President Barack Obama’s actions to bring military troops home from foreign soil, CSU officials confirmed, especially in light of changes to the G.I. Bill that increased the level of financial support provided to returning soldiers.
In order to prepare for the arrival of the new veterans, Off Campus Student Services and the Registrar’s office are working to develop services to improve the success of each individual’s transition into college.
“We have approximately 340 men and women getting Veteran Assistance benefits on campus,” VA certifying officer Glen Vance of the Registrar’s office said. “We are anticipating a 20 to 40 percent increase of veterans, but of course that is just guessing.”
While the exact number of new veterans headed to CSU in the coming semesters is merely speculation, OCSS coordinator Ann Ingala said she believes the new veterans will come in two waves.
“Some will come directly to CSU to begin their college education while others might initially choose to start at a community college if it has been a few years since they were in school,” she said. “They might want to ease into it and get a feel for it. We’ll see those student veterans in later years down the road. How many? We really don’t know.”
“Most universities are trying to develop programs, but CSU is being proactive and already offering services for veterans, making the transition from military to college life easier,” Ingala said.
In addition to the social programs designed for student vets, improvements to the G.I. Bill will help more individuals sustain the financial burden of paying for college, officials said.
More than ever, veterans will be receiving aid for college under the post-9/11 G.I. Bill, also known as the “new” G.I. Bill. The terms of the new G.I. Bill, which will be enacted on Aug. 1, give those who have served in active duty on or after Sept. 10, 2001 the following:
Full tuition and fees coverage up to the most expensive in-state undergraduate tuition at a public institution
A monthly housing stipend
$1,000 for books and $500 spending money for those coming from rural areas.
The new bill will be available to veterans at no cost, unlike the original G.I. Bill that required active duty members to buy in to the program during their first year in the service, Ingala noted.
OCSS offers several programs including Veteran’s Listserv, a way for vets to keep in contact with OCSS, a mentoring program and is in the process of developing an on-campus student veteran organization. OCSS officials also want to create scholarships for veterans to cover costs not recognized by the G.I. Bill, such as expenses veterans with families or disabilities face.
“Transitioning back from active duty to student life is a challenge and so is school,” Vance said. “Difficulties vary if a veteran was in heavy combat, which can dictate how hard it is to transfer back into civilian life.”
Ingala said some veterans come back from Iraq or Afghanistan with “signature wounds” that can make schooling difficult, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or Traumatic Brain Injuries which can be inflicted through head wounds like a concussion.
“Vets come back to school and the injuries impact the way they receive information,” she said. “Post Traumatic Stress could also make walking around students on campus or a large lecture hall feel unsafe. Adapting to loud noises can increase irritability, making the transition even harder.”
Ingala and Vance both voiced that the best way the student body can help the incoming veterans is to make them feel at home, welcome them and not treat them any different than other students.
“A lot of them feel like they are too old to be categorized as freshmen when they are 22, 23-years-old or older and can feel like they are isolated from other students,” Ingala said.
“I urge all faculty, staff and students to be as welcoming as possible,” Vance said. “Everyone can play a part in helping the new veterans; as a liaison between students and the VA, this is my service to the them.”
Staff writer Kelley Bruce Robinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.