Education assistance available for veterans
Minnesota college-bound veterans and service members are finding more help than ever as they continue their education, especially during what can be a difficult transition back into civilian life after deployment.
The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs is providing assistance through its Higher Education Veterans Program which features a unique one-stop Web site that served 17,000 students located in Minnesota and overseas last year. The site includes the ability for veterans and service members to chat live with representatives from the program, as well as the option to create an account for a personalized experience every visit. Program coordinators also assist active duty service members who are able to continue their studies while deployed, providing unparalleled access to everything from the latest information on education benefits, to military scholarship deadlines and updates on the new GI Bill.
The Higher Education Veterans Program's 12 regional coordinators work closely with colleges and universities across the state to develop and enhance veteran friendly policies and procedures. Coordinators also operate on-campus Veterans Resource Centers and coordinate campus and community service information.
Currently, the program serves more than 5,200 students on 57 campuses throughout Minnesota. The number of students in the program increased 67 percent in the last year alone. Between 2006 and 2008 there was an increase of more than 1,800 students receiving benefits and using this program.
As the first initiative of its kind in the country, the Higher Education Veterans Program was launched in 2006, thanks to the backing of Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the Minnesota Legislature. Although originally started as a short-term effort, its success and steady growth have demonstrated a continuing need for its services, and Pawlenty has proposed continuing the program.
"This program is an important part of our effort to keep the promises we, as a country, have made to the men and women who continuously put their lives on the line for this nation," said Clark Dyrud, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs.
Even with the proven success, there are students who still need to be reached. The federal Department of Veterans Affairs reports there are nearly 10,000 veteran students enrolled in colleges, universities and higher education institutions in Minnesota. That number is expected to grow with the rollout of the new federal GI Bill this August.
"There is a need for services to help address the unique challenges veterans face when attending college. It is anticipated that the number of veterans and their families needing services will continue to grow," said Don Pfeffer, director of the Higher Education Veterans Program.
All around the country this program is having an impact. The Higher Education Veterans Program and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities are teaming up to hold a national Webinar about "why we serve veterans" at the end of April. More than 100 colleges and universities from around the country are already signed up to learn more about Minnesota's program. Additionally, the Student Veterans of America have gleaned information from this program to publish their own materials on serving veterans, and other states around the nation have based similar programs on Minnesota's success.
In some cases, family members of veterans are also eligible for education benefits. For more information, individuals are encouraged to contact their local coordinator through www.MyMilitaryEducation.org or call (800) 456-8519.
To schedule an interview with a higher education regional coordinator or student in your community, contact Dave Bellefeuille at (218) 477-2080 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please see your local county veterans service officer if you have any questions. You can contact your local VSO at (218) 631-7617 or by e-mail at email@example.com. As always, have a great week.