Campus leaders hope the comprehensive program will serve as a model for other U.S. colleges and universities in military-affiliated communities.
About 75 percent of the required funding to support the Advancing Veteran Success in Higher Education initiative is pledged, according to Tom Dewar, senior director of development, University Advancement. The initiative addresses the academic, personal and employment needs of college-bound military service members through academic and career assessments, tutoring, mental health resources, financial aid, peer mentoring and other programs. Nationally, it is estimated that 1 million veterans will complete their military service by 2020. Post-secondary education is often a next step for transitioning military members.
“This initiative will address specific needs of those who have served our country and put them on the path toward success as they transition into civilian life,” said Phillip Morris, director, Office of Veteran and Military Student Affairs. “This depth of access to services for veterans who have, or are planning to transition to higher education, is significant. This effort will build upon our existing programs and support services, galvanizing UCCS’ role as a committed leader for veteran and military students, while providing valuable lessons for other higher education institutions to adopt.”
Spearheaded by UCCS, the Advancing Veteran Success in Higher Education initiative will screen veterans about to transition out of military service to determine initial education and employment interests and create services to support them throughout a college career. The initiative will fund the creation and implementation of academic and career planning services, faculty and staff training, remedial coursework assistance, student financial aid, peer mentoring events, mental health resources, partnerships with Pikes Peak Community College, veterans organizations and community groups, and tracking systems to measure the retention, graduation and employment rates of student veterans.
While colleges and universities may offer some services for military and veteran students, often they don’t seamlessly meet all the needs throughout a student’s college career, Morris said. The Advancing Veteran Success program hopes to change that with the goal of increasing graduation rates of military and veteran students.
“UCCS is pleased to engage our partners and investors to create a well-rounded and holistic system of educational and career support for our military service members and veterans,” said Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak. “This initiative is garnering excellent support.”
The Anschutz Foundation, JPMorgan Chase Foundation and longtime CU supporter Clancy Herbst are among those who have already made substantial contributions to the program. UCCS is working diligently to meet its funding goal by the end of 2015 with a pilot to launch in January 2016.
Colorado ranks 10th in the nation for veterans pursuing higher education on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and Colorado Springs is the No. 1 choice for final assignment location by U.S. Army service members preparing to conclude their military career and re-enter civilian life, according to Morris. Positioned near four military bases and the Air Force Academy, UCCS is a natural location to kick off the pilot program.