Military News

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Getting help getting ahead with education

by Dave Smith
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer

8/25/2015 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Transitioning from military life to civilian life can be a daunting task in itself. Transitioning from military life into college life can be an even bigger challenge. More than one million veteran and active-duty service members attend college annually, and a significant number of them face hurdles their civilian counterparts do not.

Some colleges and universities do a good job assisting veterans and active members of the armed services. For local military men and women the good news is there is plenty of help and support available to make continuing education a successful pursuit.

Schools like University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Colorado College and Pikes Peak Community College provide various resources to active duty military and veterans to assist them transitioning into the academic world.

Pikes Peak Community College has offices on Peterson AFB in the Education Services building. There are classes offered on base five times a year to make picking up credits easier, as long as there are eight students enrolled.

"If they are going to PPCC they can get classes on base. For young (Airmen) in the dorms they don't have to go downtown," said Ron Shields, program manager, Department of Military and Veterans Programs for the school.

Students enrolled and taking classes on base are also able to use all PPCC facilities. There is a dedicated veterans' center on the central campus staffed with people who are familiar with military issues. The center has a lounge area with plenty of outlets for charging devices as well as computers to apply for Veterans Affairs benefits, apply to school and other uses.
Military students can connect with academic advisors at the center and at Peterson. At both sites students and prospective students can get more information and help in filling out the required paperwork for G.I. Bill funds, enrollment and other forms.

"When students have been out of school for a while we want to help them be successful," Shields said.

UCCS has a dedicated Office of Veteran and Military Student Affairs to help with the transition to the world of academia. Everyone working in the center is on or was on the G.I. Bill, said John Woods, Veterans and Military Student Outreach Coordinator. Woods, an Army veteran himself, earned a bachelor's degree using the G.I. Bill.

The office spends a lot of time helping veterans get their G.I. Bill benefits set up each semester. That assistance includes getting the paperwork processed and into the VA system. The center serves as a resource hub as well.

"We are connected to a lot of resources," Woods said. The staff can make navigating the campus and its systems an easier task.

Private schools also seek to assist the military community as well. Colorado College participates in the Yellow Ribbon program teaming with the VA to provide financial assistance, said school President Jill Tiefenthaler. The program provides funds in addition to G.I. Bill funds. Schools agree to offer a certain number of awards and the VA matches them for veterans at 100 percent of Bill benefits.

"CC has signed an agreement with the VA to disburse up to five Yellow Ribbon awards per year to undergraduate students at $7,000 each and 10 awards to graduate students at $5,000 each. These awards are then matched dollar for dollar by the VA," Tiefenthaler said. For the 2014-15 academic year the school awarded six Yellow Ribbon awards, five of them to undergraduate students.

Besides helping navigate the flow of paperwork and finances local school provide assistance following the initial steps in becoming a student. PPCC and UCCS have services available to assist veterans and military persons to be successful in the classroom as well. Connecting with academic advisors, tutors, and math and writing labs are part of the plan in these institutions where military students are concerned. UCCS even has a Student Veterans Panel and a Veterans Education Training Support program giving faculty and staff sensitivity training regarding veteran and military students.

"We give faculty and staff an awareness and bust stereotypes," Woods said.

PPCC Office of Accommodative Services and Instructional Support, OASIS, offers help to students with documented disabilities, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, get services delivered to meet their specific needs among other resources.

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