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UT System institutions provide range of services to student veterans

EL PASO – University of Texas System institutions are dedicated to providing a variety of unique services and resources to veterans and active duty service members, said the presidents of four UT institutions that serve high numbers of students affiliated with the military.

As the nation prepares to celebrate Veterans Day next week, UT Arlington President Vistasp Karbhari, UT Austin President Bill Powers, UT El Paso President Diana Natalicio and UT San Antonio President Ricardo Romo led a discussion at Wednesday’s Board of Regents meeting about how their institutions support student veterans.

Roughly 8,500 veterans, active duty service members, spouses and dependents are served by UT institutions. Because student veterans can face added challenges transitioning to college, all UT institutions provide a range of support geared specifically to them, including advising, tutoring, mentoring, priority registration for classes, counseling and mental health services, job placement services and student organization.

Several campuses have dedicated on-campus student veteran centers that serve as a central place to access services and resources as well as a physical location where veterans and their families can gather for social events and outreach programs.

“Having a one-stop-shop is probably the most important thing to provide,” said Powers, whose campus is ranked the fourth best college in the nation for veterans by U.S. News & World Report. “It’s a place for students to go and be welcomed by and discuss issues with other student veterans. It’s also a road map for a complicated university as well as mental health, financial aid and academic services.”

The Military Student Success Center at UTEP – which is designated a “Best for Vets” campus by the Military Times – offers a workshop called Green Zone to familiarize faculty and staff with issues that are specific to student veterans.

“This provides our own faculty and staff with a greater awareness about military students and the challenges they may be facing and how best to be helpful to them,” Natalicio said. “The Green Zone training is designed to enable faculty members, for example, to recognize certain issues that might develop and to make referrals in a timely manner.”

All UT academic institutions have staff trained specifically to work with military students. At UT Arlington, also a “Best for Vets” campus, the initial point of contact for student veterans is the Veterans Assistance Center, which provides tutoring and mentoring and assistance completing college, financial aid and GI Bill applications. A collaborative effort between UT Arlington and the Department of Veterans Affairs also means a full-time, experienced vocational counselor is available.

“The Veterans Assistance Center serves as an initial point of contact to guide students to other resources that exist on campus,” Karbhari said.

About 10 percent of UTSA’s student population – about 3,000 students – is affiliated with the military, Romo said, and the campus has earned five consecutive awards from GI Jobs Magazine as one of the nation’s top Military Friendly Schools. UTSA also provides $10 million in tuition assistance to military-affiliated students through the state’s Hazlewood Act, which is one of the highest amounts in the state, Romo said.

“UTSA is committed to the students in the armed forces by providing student services for veterans and enriching their whole academic experience,” Romo said.

At the conclusion of the discussion, Regents’ Vice Chairman Steve Hicks directed the UT System Office of Academic Affairs to work with UT Austin to explore additional ways for more student veterans to gain acceptance to the flagship campus.

“Veterans are an important part of the student body and we need to do whatever we can to smooth the pathway for them,” Hicks said.

About The University of Texas System

Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking research and serving the needs of Texans and the nation for more than 130 years, The University of Texas System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States, with nine academic universities, six health institutions and an enrollment of more than 214,000. The UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees, educates two-thirds of the state’s health care professionals annually and accounts for almost 70 percent of all research funds awarded to public universities in Texas. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $15.6 billion (FY 2015) including $3 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With about 90,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.