As schools nationwide are working to expand higher education to service members, Augusta State University is making veteran outreach a priority in its consolidation with Georgia Health Sciences University.
The new university has plans for a military resource center, mentoring programs, and services such as scholarships and assistance for military family members and spouses through a program called Soldiers to Scholars.
“It’s to help veterans be successful, because once the academic advisers are gone and orientation is over, they need help to figure out what the best academic road is for them,” said Jeffrey Foley, a retired Army brigadier general who is GHSU’s vice president of military and global affairs.
The University System of Georgia named ASU a military-friendly institution in 2011, and since then the school has worked to implement the Soldiers to Scholars Program. Throughout consolidation, a committee will work to complete the requirements of the program, from funding assistance to building a handicapped-accessible campus.
The most important service to come for the new university, according to Foley, is expanded college credit given to new students for their experience in the military.
A soldier who has experience in information technology could earn credit toward IT classes, and a special forces medic could receive credit toward a paramedic or nursing program.
In August, ASU is expected to open its Military and Veterans Service Center, which will have a full support staff, including a military transfer credit adviser and project coordinator, along with a study room and lounge with coffee for veterans.
One reason for the push toward military outreach is the interest pool. About 250 veterans attended ASU annually from 1993 to 2002, but that number grew to 500 in 2012, Foley said.
Besides veterans, there are military spouses and children who need assistance when pursuing higher education.
To fully implement its Soldiers to Scholars program, ASU must develop 21 initiatives outlined in a blueprint.
The staff has achieved a few goals already, but must continue developing programs such as a student veterans group, training of faculty and staffers to understand military needs, establishing a military Web page and making the campus handicapped-accessible for wounded veterans.
According to Foley, a transition from a military to academic lifestyle is often challenging. He said it’s a university’s obligation to make that switch as easy as possible.
“Even if you have never been traumatized by a battlefield or training incident, you are now on your own to figure out what you want to do in life,” the retired general said. “Then you walk on a college campus and say, ‘What now?’ We want to help as many veterans as we can.”