For the second straight year, two Augusta schools of higher learning have received national recognition for providing outstanding educational opportunities to the area’s military community.
Victory Media, a U.S. media relations firm that helps military personnel transition into civilian life, has added Georgia Regents University and Georgia Military College’s Augusta campus to its 2014 Military Friendly Schools list.
The honor represents the top 20 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools in the country that are doing the most to embrace – and ensure the success of – America’s military service members, veterans and spouses, said Victory Media Vice President Sean Collins.
Local officials said Monday the award – published in high-profile business magazines such as Forbes and Business Week – follows a heightened effort in Augusta during the past year to provide more transparent information on the educational services and benefits prospective military students can expect on their campuses.
“Our personnel involved in recruiting, financial aid and advising has taken great pains to be honest and upfront about the programs the college offers, and what our degree programs do and do not provide,” said Brian Hendricks, on-post coordinator for Georgia Military College’s Augusta-Fort Gordon Campus.
“We work hard to provide accurate information about cost of attendance, sources of aid, and the processes by which aid is applied to those costs because it matters to us that students can trust the information provided to them and the college personnel with whom they deal. Being named a Military Friendly school signifies that we have met a high standard for establishing and maintaining that trust.”
GMC and GRU are among 1,868 schools on the list that exhibit leading policies and practices in the recruitment and retention of students with military experience.
Victory Media’s list – started in 2009 – is an extensive research and data-driven survey of more than 10,000 schools nationwide approved for tuition funding by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Findings are independently tested by Ernst & Young, LLP and each year, Collins said schools are held to a higher standard than the previous year through improved methodology, criteria and weightings developed with the assistance of an Academic Advisory Board.
This year, transparency was a key element to the list.
“In this time of diminished resources for public education, it is gratifying to be recognized by Victory Media as a military friendly institution,” Carol Giardina, director of GRU’s Military and Veterans Services, said in a statement. “GRU staff and administrators have worked tirelessly to gather the resources that allow the institution to achieve this recognition. ”
Since 2009, more than 575 former and active military members and their families have attended GRU, using $5.3 million in Post-9/11 GI Bill assistance to pay for classes. GMC has averaged 200 veterans, active-duty military personnel and family members at its Fort Gordon and Martinez campuses. In the past five years, the enrollment has brought in more than $1.6 million in Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for both online and in-classroom courses.
The success, Hendricks said, was due to a combined effort from the college’s office in the Fort Gordon Education Center and its staff in Martinez, which participates in the Association of the United States Army, the Georgia Advisory Council on Military Education and the Council of College and Military Educators.
Together, the two created a student veterans club to stay on top of tuition assistance policies for all service branches, and served as a charter member of Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges, which manages a network to help students complete degrees and transfer credits.
“While the trend in military education has shifted to online delivery, students still need key classes face-to-face (and) being named Military Friendly recognizes the commitment we have made to make these classes available,” Hendricks said. “It is a great feeling to visit with former students coming back to post as second lieutenants after Nursing or Physician’s Assistant school and share their successes. Our students make a difference in the world.”