As West Virginians honor those who have served and continue serving this Veterans Day, our state’s public colleges and universities have rallied together to create a stronger level of support for veterans and service members who are working to further their education.
This year, the Higher Education Policy Commission and Community and Technical College System of West Virginia launched the “5 Star Challenge,” which sets forth five exemplary standards for better supporting student veterans. And we are proud to say that all of our community and technical colleges and four-year institutions have accepted the challenge.
According to spring 2015 enrollment data, more than 2,700 students receiving benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs were enrolled in West Virginia’s two- and four-year higher education institutions.
And we know these students come to college with past experiences that set them far apart from the general student population.
Student veterans and military members often feel isolated on campus. We also know that even small process delays can discourage them from continuing their studies, that college life could not be further from the realities of military service — and that without a dedicated support network, a student veteran can far too easily fall through the cracks.
At the same time, we know that veterans and service members are leaders. They are service driven. They are faithfully committed to the task ahead of them. So, in short, they are assets and role models for our campus communities.
That’s why, through the 5 Star Challenge, colleges and universities across West Virginia will place a sharpened focus on access and affordability for student veterans and service members; provide them with increased academic support, including priority registration for classes; enhance social networks that will allow them to be more engaged on campus; and work more closely with community organizations to provide a holistic approach to meeting student veterans’ needs.
We are grateful to each public college and university president and their campus teams for embracing the 5 Star Challenge.
We believe these are powerful changes that do more than honor our veterans, but also create real improvements aimed at customizing their college experiences, giving them the resources they need to earn their credentials — and helping them reach their absolute heights.
For more information on the 5 Star Challenge, visit www.cfwv.com, West Virginia’s free college- and career-planning website.
This commentary by Higher Education Policy Commission Chancellor Paul Hill and Community and Technical College System Chancellor Sarah Tucker appeared in the November 11, 2015 edition of the Charleston Gazette-Mail.