Helping Veterans Get to and through College

An estimated 30,000 to 50,000 veterans will leave the military and move to Michigan in the next five years. In an effort to support veterans transitioning to civilian life and to aid in their pursuit of a college education, Michigan College Access Network partnered with the Michigan Veteran Affairs Agency to create the Michigan Veteran Education Initiative. This new program provides one-on-one support to help the thousands of veterans who enroll in Michigan’s educational institutions, by providing outreach services, support and information.

 MVEI1 2  MVEI1 3
Veteran Resource Representatives participating in the Tight Lines for Troops fishing tournament 
 A Veteran Resource Representative at work in her office

The MVEI launched in the fall of 2014, with 13 veteran resource representatives hired to work at 15 college campuses around the state. These representatives are housed on campus and interact with student veterans, assisting them as they complete benefits applications and navigate the higher education and financial aid processes. MVAA and MCAN hope the extra guidance will encourage veterans to pursue a higher education and provide them with valuable networking opportunities when they return to civilian life. Veteran resource representatives are an important component of efforts to foster greater success for our veterans who attend institutions of higher learning. The representatives also help demonstrate that Michigan’s educational institutions are national leaders in supporting student veterans.

MCAN and MVAA are excited to share success stories and data from our first year of support. Between January and May 2015, 475 veterans were individually served by veteran resource representatives. The top five reasons for veterans seeking assistance have been:

  • VA benefits;
  • Academic issues;
  • Financial issues;
  • Student life; and
  • Career guidance.

In addition, 136 veterans received assistance with benefit claims that they earned as a result of military service. These benefits bring revenue into the state of Michigan and support veterans in meeting their higher education and life goals.

Recently, veterans were surveyed about their level of satisfaction with support provided by veteran resource representatives. Of the respondents, 97 percent felt the VRR met or exceeded their expectations. Here are a few quotes from veterans who were asked about the best part of having a VRR on campus:

“Someone is always there looking out for veterans.”

“I now have help navigating complicated government and educational systems.”

“I could not have done it without them.”

There have been many success stories through the VRR meetings. This one is an example of how one interaction can be life changing:  

A veteran was using student loans because he wasn't eligible for benefits due to a general discharge. The discharge was upgraded. His truck was fixed by the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund ($2,300), and he was signed up with VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program (Chapter 31) and received backdated pay for one year ($19, 152). The veteran was approved, through his Chapter 31, to continue on with a bachelor’s degree in engineering. The veteran also will receive $11,200 from previous Pell Grants, and $22,000 paid back to the higher education institution. The veteran’s life is changed; he will be able to graduate college free of debt, with an engineering degree.

Veteran resource representatives are documenting stories like this every day. MVAA and MCAN couldn’t be more proud of our hard-working veteran resource representatives or more thankful for our college partners helping make this initiative possible. The list of college campuses that participate in the MVEI includes: Baker College-Flint; Ferris State University; Grand Valley State University; Grand Rapids Community College; Jackson College; Lansing Community College; MIAT College of Technology; Michigan State University; Mid-Michigan Community College; Kirtland Community College; North Central Michigan College; Northern Michigan University; Oakland Community College; Spring Arbor University; and Western Michigan University.

MCAN and MVAA are excited to announce the expansion of the MVEI to include two more veteran resource representatives. Applications are open for new partner institutions until July 6, 2015. Colleges and universities are encouraged to review the cover letter and application for additional information, which can be found on our MVEI webpage.

Jaimie Hutchison headshotAuthor: Jaimie Hutchison, MVEI program manager

Posted: June 25, 2015

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