A Cayuga Community College team of employees and a student presented “Boots to Books: Transitioning Veterans from Military to College” during the 19th National Conference on Students in Transition in Philadelphia, on October 15.
Assistant Professor and English Specialist Sarah Yaw, Director of Adult Learning Janet Nelson, and President of the Student Veterans Club Brian Knapp discussed how Cayuga is helping to support the increasing number of veteran students. They shared sample student veteran and faculty/staff surveys as well as sample veteran student checklists and a list of veteran resources that the College provides its veteran students. They offered a replicable model for consideration by other institutions.
The team also explained the proactive steps the College has taken to provide better service to students, despite limited resources.
For example, based on student feedback, the College connected with the New York State Division of Veterans Affairs to seek support and education for its veteran population, which has grown 400 percent during the past three years. This state agency has placed a veteran counselor on the Auburn Campus two days per week, at no cost to the College. In addition to advising the students directly, the counselor can host trainings for faculty and staff so they can serve the students more effectively and understand the challenges they face.
In January 2012, Cayuga Community College took the lead in establishing a Regional Veteran Consortium to help streamline services for veteran students. More than 100 colleges and universities, and federal, state, and local veteran services groups, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, currently participate in the consortium. At the most recent meeting on October 17, the Consortium discussed the new executive order and ways the group members can foster collaborations between higher education and vet-service agencies.
In addition to sharing best practices and sharing resources, the group has joined forces to advocate for changes at the federal level. They would like to see the following changes made:
- Reinstate break pay: Student veterans currently receive no financial support during intersession and between summer and fall sessions. Since it’s impossible to find employment for only one month, this poses a serious threat to persistence and student-veteran retention.
- Mandate that all veterans receive resident tuition. Public institutions often have differences in pricing for residents and non-residents of a service area (county, state, etc.), and because of frequent transfers and deployments during their service, veterans don’t often meet criteria for resident tuition pricing.
- Create a veterans office on campuses. Provide grants to colleges to create Veteran’s Offices on campuses, as the Veterans’ Cost-of-Instruction grants and Veteran Education Outreach programs previously did. Include salary line for full-time staffing, and financial support for veteran-only space on campuses.
“We were pleased that we had the opportunity to present on this important topic,” Yaw said. “Colleges, even with limited resources, can be proactive in helping veterans transition from military life to the culture of an academic environment. We were able to share valuable resources with peers to help them better support veteran students.”