UT tracks veterans

In an article published on Jan. 16, The Daily Texan reported that the University “will need to figure out how many student veterans there are” in order to track graduation rates among this population. The truth is that the University has information on every individual, past or present, who has made use of military educational benefits at UT.

It is widely believed that the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs sends employees to college campuses to assist student veterans and dependents with the transition to higher education. In reality, each university is responsible for providing that assistance to the student veterans. The Office of the Dean of Students officially launched Student Veteran Services (SVS) on Veterans Day in 2011 to address the needs of student veterans and dependents at the University. SVS has since worked closely with various administrative departments campus-wide to assist student veterans and dependents with accessing their education benefits and acclimating to student life. Both processes can be challenging.

SVS routinely collaborates with the Office of Admissions to identify incoming student veterans and dependents, and we continue to make improvements in tracking these students and collecting nationally relevant retention and completion data. SVS has also worked with New Student Services to develop orientation services specifically for student veterans. The vast majority of incoming student veterans transfer to UT-Austin from schools all over the country with widely varying transfer requirements. Partnering with admissions and orientation staff has allowed SVS to begin tracking each student veteran as soon as he or she accepts admission to the University. We have data on every student who has ever utilized veteran education benefits at UT-Austin, which benefits were used and when and whether or not the student using the benefit was a veteran or a dependent of a veteran. What we cannot track are student veterans who do not use benefits or do not self identify. 

Though the Department of Veterans Affairs provides many benefits to student veterans and dependents, frequent case backlogs and understaffing can delay receipt or disbursement of funds. To solve this problem, Student Veteran Services, since registration period in the fall semester, has started working with Student Accounts Receivable to develop a shelter program to ensure that student veteran and dependent course registration is secured until state or federal educational benefits can be applied to outstanding tuition or fees.  

The past four years have brought exponential growth in the number of student veterans and dependents using education benefits at UT. Student Veteran Services and the Office of the Registrar have worked to address the rapidly increasing workload and increase efficiency in the student veteran and dependent-benefits certification process. The Office of the Registrar has trained counselors to specialize in state and federal education benefit requests and certification, and has created new avenues for student veterans and dependents to submit or modify benefits claims. These remedies have streamlined the previously 4–6 week benefits certification process down to approximately 14 days.  

Together, Student Veteran Services, the Office of the Registrar, the Office of Admissions, Student Accounts Receivable and New Student Services are also making it easier for UT-Austin to track and collect relevant information about student veteran graduation rates. SVS is developing a plan to collect historical and current enrollment information in order to generate retention and graduation data regarding student veterans. 

The article, “Gathering higher education data on student veterans proves difficult,” quotes only student veterans. No attempt was made to interview University staff from any of the many departments that assist veterans and their dependents. Had any time been taken to gather information from a broad range of sources, the reporter would have discovered that the intricate network that exists campus-wide to support this population also keeps copious records. In short, the story would have been accurate.  

Although there are issues that can create barriers to student success, our efforts to resolve them have been successful thanks to the dedication and diligence shown by the staff involved in serving student veterans and dependents. SVS is proud of the work that has been done to find solutions and improve the ways in which the university meets the needs of student veterans and dependents. 

Armstrong is the Student Veteran Services Coordinator.In an article published on Jan. 16, The Daily Texan reported that the University “will need to figure out how many student veterans there are” in order to track graduation rates among this population. The truth is that the University has information on every individual, past or present, who has made use of military educational benefits at UT.

It is widely believed that the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs sends employees to college campuses to assist student veterans and dependents with the transition to higher education. In reality, each university is responsible for providing that assistance to the student veterans. The Office of the Dean of Students officially launched Student Veteran Services (SVS) on Veterans Day in 2011 to address the needs of student veterans and dependents at the University. SVS has since worked closely with various administrative departments campus-wide to assist student veterans and dependents with accessing their education benefits and acclimating to student life. Both processes can be challenging.

SVS routinely collaborates with the Office of Admissions to identify incoming student veterans and dependents, and we continue to make improvements in tracking these students and collecting nationally relevant retention and completion data. SVS has also worked with New Student Services to develop orientation services specifically for student veterans. The vast majority of incoming student veterans transfer to UT-Austin from schools all over the country with widely varying transfer requirements. Partnering with admissions and orientation staff has allowed SVS to begin tracking each student veteran as soon as he or she accepts admission to the University. We have data on every student who has ever utilized veteran education benefits at UT-Austin, which benefits were used and when and whether or not the student using the benefit was a veteran or a dependent of a veteran. What we cannot track are student veterans who do not use benefits or do not self identify. 

Though the Department of Veterans Affairs provides many benefits to student veterans and dependents, frequent case backlogs and understaffing can delay receipt or disbursement of funds. To solve this problem, Student Veteran Services, since registration period in the fall semester, has started working with Student Accounts Receivable to develop a shelter program to ensure that student veteran and dependent course registration is secured until state or federal educational benefits can be applied to outstanding tuition or fees.  

The past four years have brought exponential growth in the number of student veterans and dependents using education benefits at UT. Student Veteran Services and the Office of the Registrar have worked to address the rapidly increasing workload and increase efficiency in the student veteran and dependent-benefits certification process. The Office of the Registrar has trained counselors to specialize in state and federal education benefit requests and certification, and has created new avenues for student veterans and dependents to submit or modify benefits claims. These remedies have streamlined the previously 4–6 week benefits certification process down to approximately 14 days.  

Together, Student Veteran Services, the Office of the Registrar, the Office of Admissions, Student Accounts Receivable and New Student Services are also making it easier for UT-Austin to track and collect relevant information about student veteran graduation rates. SVS is developing a plan to collect historical and current enrollment information in order to generate retention and graduation data regarding student veterans. 

The article, “Gathering higher education data on student veterans proves difficult,” quotes only student veterans. No attempt was made to interview University staff from any of the many departments that assist veterans and their dependents. Had any time been taken to gather information from a broad range of sources, the reporter would have discovered that the intricate network that exists campus-wide to support this population also keeps copious records. In short, the story would have been accurate.  

Although there are issues that can create barriers to student success, our efforts to resolve them have been successful thanks to the dedication and diligence shown by the staff involved in serving student veterans and dependents. SVS is proud of the work that has been done to find solutions and improve the ways in which the university meets the needs of student veterans and dependents. 

Armstrong is the Student Veteran Services Coordinator.