SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. – State officials are applauding West Virginia’s public colleges and universities for stepping up their efforts to support student veterans. During a meeting of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission earlier today, Dr. Paul Hill, Chancellor of the Commission, reported that all of the state’s public higher education institutions have met or exceeded the goals set forth by West Virginia’s 5 Star Challenge initiative.
Launched last year by the Commission’s Office of Veterans Education and Training, the 5 Star Challenge set forth a call to action to institutions to improve educational opportunities for veterans, military service members and their dependents. The West Virginia Community and Technical College System also issued the challenge to West Virginia’s public two-year colleges.
In accepting the Challenge, institutions committed to fulfilling the five criteria outlined by the Commission and WVCTCS within one year.
Colleges pledged to:
1) provide signed commitments from college and university presidents to dedicate time and resources toward meeting the needs of student veterans;
2) review and amended policies to increase college access and affordability for veterans;
3) provided increased academic support;
4) enhance social networking opportunities for veterans on campus; and
5) build partnerships with community organizations to better serve and support veterans in all aspects of their lives.
“Our military service members and their families make enormous personal sacrifices and perform invaluable services to our country,” Dr. Hill said. “The work our colleges and universities have undertaken this past year honors those contributions. I am hopeful that we can continue to expand on our efforts to give back to these individuals who offer so much to our campuses, our communities and our nation.”
As a result of the Challenge, every public college and university in West Virginia is now offering student veterans either priority registration or guaranteed placement for classes.
“Priority registration is a huge win for these students,” L.G. Corder, the Commission’s Director of Veterans Education and Training and a veteran of the U.S. Army, said. “Active and reserve military service members are juggling intense schedules in fulfilling the requirements of both their service and their educations. Giving them first priority for classes helps them better manage their responsibilities and can help offset any delays in completing their degree that may be caused by deployment.”
The 5 Star Challenge has also fueled a variety of new community partnerships on campuses across the state.
For example, Glenville State College, Marshall University and Shepherd University all worked with community business leaders and donors to fund new veterans resource centers on campus. Concord University , Mountwest Community and Technical College and Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College partnered with community and campus organizations to enhance their existing centers, all of which had previously been recognized by state and national leaders.
Blue Ridge Community and Technical College organized a military and veteran community resource fair to assist veterans with issues related to education, counseling, the legal system, housing and health.
And Shepherd University expanded their Team River Runner project, which partners with the local VA hospital to offer wounded and disabled veterans the opportunity to embrace new challenges, build camaraderie and improve their health through paddling programs and events.
“The impact of Shepherd’s Team River Runner program is phenomenal,” Corder said. “Some patients at the VA were so taken by the experience and with Shepherd that they have since enrolled in the college and are completing degree programs. The effect is transformative. These individuals are not only on the road to recovery but on a path to a college degree. ”