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Helping Veterans Get the Education They Need

By AACC Staff

Tennessee task force recommends ways to improve higher education opportunities for the state’s veterans.

As U.S. troops leave Afghanistan and the military begins to downsize, our nation’s veterans are returning home in even greater numbers. Many of them will need some form of higher education to successfully move into the workforce, and states are wise to help them navigate whatever educational path they choose.

What follows is an article that first appeared in AACC’s Community College Daily, on what one state is considering to help veterans.

A new report from the Governor’s Veterans Education Task Force outlines ways to improve higher education opportunities for Tennessee veterans.

Recommendations made by the task force include:

  • Support standardized, statewide training for campus leaders on veteran education practices
  • Provide opportunities for colleges and universities to compete for funding veteran-focused initiatives
  • Establish a comprehensive veteran education web-portal

“Veterans returning home from serving their country should have a smooth transition when enrolling at one of our colleges or universities,” Haslam said. “I appreciate the hard work of the Veterans Education Task Force to look at this issue and how we serve those veterans who have served so bravely for us. These recommendations will improve veterans’ access to higher education and help Tennessee toward the goals of Drive to 55.”

The governor’s Drive to 55 initiative aims to increase the number of Tennesseans with a certificate or degree beyond high school. By 2025, 55 percent of the jobs in Tennessee will require a postsecondary credential, and currently only 33 percent of Tennesseans qualify.

More vets in college

Haslam formed the task force last year, charging the group with identifying hurdles for transitioning veterans, researching best practices to serve student veterans and making recommendations on improving opportunities for veterans to earn a postsecondary degree or certificate. According to federal data, 35 percent of Tennessee veterans have some college or an associate degree, and 23 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Each of the higher education sectors in Tennessee have seen sharp increases in their number of student veterans over the past five years, according to the report. Public two-year colleges saw the lowest increase: In 2013, 413 veterans were enrolled, compared to 203 in 2008. That 80 percent increase paled in comparison to the percentage increases among public and not-for-profit private four-year colleges and for-profit institutions, which saw jumps ranging from 220 percent to 462 percent.

The task force will work with stakeholders from the state Department of Veterans Affairs and higher education in the coming months to begin implementing the recommendations, with planning on the statewide training initiative and web-portal beginning immediately.

The nine-member task force — which included Mary Lou Apple, president of Motlow State Community College — met once a month for six months and hosted meetings at college and university campuses across the state, focusing on those campuses that have been the most successful in educating veterans.

What is your state doing to help veterans get the higher education they need? Tell us in the Comments. And for more community college news, check out AACC’s Community College Daily

AACC Staff

contributed to this report.

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