Student Soldier: An Easier Transition
California makes transition from soldier to student easier for veterans
April 20, 2006 7:40 PM
The California State University system has began working with Gov. Schwarzenegger, the University of California, and community colleges statewide, to formulate a plan to aid soldiers finished with active duty transition from veteran to college student.
The Veterans Education Opportunities Partnership, proposed by the governor last month, pledges to provide educational outreach, counseling and enrollment plans for armed forces veterans.
The CSU announced their decision to assist the governor on April 6. So far, the Partnership has met twice and is at the beginning stages of deciding the next actions to be incorporated with the Transition Assistance Program.
The Program, which provides information on all aspects of returning to civilian life, is mandatory for all people exiting the military, according to Allison Jones, the assistant vice chancellor for CSU’s Academic Affairs.
“We have just started the dialogue with the military to understand more clearly what students need when they leave the military,” Jones said. “Now we can come together to provide them the proper assistance.”
According to statistics from Schwarzenegger’s office, California has 175,000 residents in active military duty and one in nine of all men and women in the U.S. armed forces are stationed in California.
“We want California to be the most friendly state from a college and university standpoint to veterans in the United States,” CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed said in a statement.
In addition to providing outreach, information, financial assistance, and priority admission to California residents, veteran educational benefits are also extended to military personnel that are stationed in California to enter the CSU without having to pay exorbitant non-resident fees.
According to Jones, one aspect of the Veterans Educational Opportunities Partnerships is to provide dual admission for veterans who attend community college to be simultaneously involved in the CSU.
“Veterans will be able to fulfill specific CSU requirements while attending community college and be involved in the culture of CSU campuses,” Jones said.
Despite more than 96 percent of armed forces personnel enrolled in the federal Montgomery G.I. bill program, which provides 36 months of educational benefits, only about 50 percent of veterans use the services provided.
According to Jo Volkert, assistant vice president for enrollment planning and management, SF State can not organize a new plan for veterans until the decisions have been made at the CSU and state level.
“We are waiting for final legislation and orders from Chancellor Reed’s office to see what the expectations will be,” Volkert said.
Currently there are 142 certified veterans enrolled in classes for spring semester. Volkert says that SF State is very supportive in aiding veterans into school and hopes to offer more counseling and outreach after CSU finalizes the Veterans Education Opportunity Partnership.
Educational benefits vary depending on the specific soldier and particular personal history. Each returning veteran will be eligible for certain benefits depending on each individual circumstance, according to Shan Yue, a representative of the San Francisco County Veterans Service Office.
“Length of service, honorable or dishonorable discharge and rank are all factors that are taken into account when deciding a soldier’s benefits,” Yue said.
Schwarzenegger, who often voices his support for educational and military issues, wants to improve educational opportunities by making counseling and advice more available to veterans and expand the use of allowing them priority admission to colleges.
“Today we are focusing on ways to do all we possibly can to create a veteran-friendly college system,” Schwarzenegger said in a press conference. “The men and women of our armed forces put their lives on the line to protect us, to protect our country, our state and our freedom.”
The CSU and Schwarzenegger hope to build upon the skills people have learned in the military to fill much needed positions in the California workforce after graduation, specifically health care professionals and K-12 math and science teachers.
“The goal is to get people to expand on skills they already have and get people into math and science teaching positions and get people into nursing, where there is a shortage of qualified people,” Jones said. “We need these people to enter and help the California economy and therefore help all of us who live here.”
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