University resources, services rank ‘Best For Vets’ for third year


Lily Katz

The Wall Of Honor found in the entrance of the Center for Wounded Veterans in Higher Education in Urbana.

By Ashley Harris , Staff Writer

The University has ranked in the top 100 of Military Times’ “Best for Vets” for a third consecutive year. The “Best For Vets” award is given to schools around the country who have good military rates and support.

The University ranked 97th out of over 500 schools featured. The ranking criteria included both veteran testimonies as well Military Times’ own judgment.  Policy agreements, post-9/11 limits, Yellow Ribbon programs, tuition rates for military tuition assistance and staff support were also considered.

The University did particularly well in several areas, including veteran staff.

“The school indicated there are eight staff members who spend over half their time focused on veteran and military issues,” George Altman, data reporter and lead researcher of Military Times, said.

With just over 400 students involved with the military, Altman sees a relatively good ratio between military students and staff. The University also offers optional training to help staff become educated in veteran issues, which prevent misunderstandings on campus.

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    Military Times praised the Veteran Student Student Support Services. Altman called it a  “one-stop shop” for veteran students.

    The Center for Wounded Veterans in Higher Education also contributed to the three-year consecutive rankings. Opening at the University in 2015, the Center functions through the College of Applied Health Sciences.

    “We both have the same mission and we work together on a lot of things,” said Jason Sakowski, coordinator of the Veteran Student Affairs Center.

    The two services often hold workshops and panels aiding veteran’s college experience to career transitions.

    The University’s benefits for military serviceman do not just target veterans. The campus also offers programs for providing a positive atmosphere for those who are interested in the armed forces, including the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.

    “We consider it to some extent,” Altman said. “It’s a pre-military program, but we look at the inverse.”

    Altman said they look more for students who go straight to the service before college. While a military program, ROTC doesn’t have a significant effect on the rankings until students have entered the military.

    ROTC provides programs with tuition benefits until students decide to go to the military.

    However, being ranked 97th, Altman noted room to improve. Military Times heavily considers the college’s graduation rate.

    Despite having good graduation rates, the University fails to produce good academic outcomes for veteran and military students, Altman said.

    “We view that as important … to see how veteran and military students succeed,” Altman said. “More importantly, so that the school has a better understanding itself of its veteran and military students.”

    Sakowski said the University does not accept many credits from the military. Although they are attempting to address the issue, he does admit it is a battle.

    “In the military, they can choose to take a test for credits or go straight to the college of their choosing,” Sakowski said. “The University currently does not accept those.”

    Altman believes students can create a positive image for the University in hopes of gaining a higher position in the ranking.

    “Students always have the ability to press forward change on their campus,” Altman said. “Students are the reason the University exists.”

    Besides working to bring awareness to veteran issues, students can get involved in the mentorship program at the Veterans Center by either filling out an application on the website or visiting the center in person.

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