Veteran enrollment increasing due to post-9/11 GI Bill

The post-9/11 GI Bill has continued to increase the university’s student veteran population this spring with 37 new student veterans using the bill, almost matching the 40 who started using the bill at the beginning of fall 2009, a university veteran affairs official said.

Stephanie Hules, veteran affairs officer, said university officials anticipated the increase this spring because the applications for the new GI Bill were available May 2009, but some veterans could not finish the paperwork in time to start in the fall.

“I talk to so many of the new VA students and they say that this benefit is so amazing and has given them a great opportunity to come back to school at the school of their choice,” Hules wrote in an e-mail.

The veteran student population now totals 133, up from 107 in fall 2009 and 60 in spring 2009.

April Brown, chair of the veterans’ committee and assistant director of assessment and retention in the Office of Inclusiveness and Intercultural Services, said that with the consistent increase in veteran students, the veterans’ committee is striving to create new ways to reach veterans and assist them on campus. She said the nature of the new GI Bill makes TCU affordable for veterans, which shows that addressing veterans’ needs is a priority.

“One of our missions is that as more veterans are able to use the GI Bill and TCU is affordable is that we’re retaining and graduating them, that they have support services that make their transition smooth, that we address needs and they graduate,” Brown said.

Chris Simcho, an alumnus who graduated in December 2009, said veterans need to be connected to other veterans from the beginning of their education and should meet separately at orientation.

Brown, who replaced the previous chair of the veterans’ committee in October, said the committee last met Dec. 2 and had decided to meet with veteran students during transfer orientation.

“It’s a population that exists, but it’s a silent population,” Brown said, noting the importance of informing student veterans about services for them that already exist.

Simcho said the orientation meeting was a good idea and should help veterans feel welcome and connected before they start class because many veterans are older, do not attend Frog Camp and can struggle to relate to traditional college students.

“The one thing that veterans come out of the military with is leadership experience, and adding an education onto that experience is going to make them very valuable to the country, I believe, and the fact that they’ll be able to pursue positions that have greater influence over society,” Simcho said.

Brown said the meeting with student veterans during orientation Aug. 7 went well and the semester is off to a good start. She said she is excited about the ideas and plans for this semester that were begun in the fall but were not able to be completed because of time.
The plans include improving communication about the resources available for veterans, like counseling services and information about transfer credits, getting more student veterans’ input to learn what needs the university is not addressing and increasing the visibility of veterans on campus by planning at least one celebration each semester.

Because the committee received such good feedback from the Veterans Day celebration in November, Brown said, another celebration may be planned for Memorial Day.

Brown said she was excited to move forward with the committee because it has already connected with the new students this semester. The committee will meet again in February.