Creating Healing Academic Communities for Veterans

Published: April 07, 2010 5:00 PM

Evergreen Recognizes Need to Build Support for Returning Veterans through Policy and Practices

Veterans have suffered incalculable hardships and losses. College campuses throughout the country have a lot to learn from their experiences and also a lot to give back. Providing meaningful opportunities for higher education is a critical component of treating veterans well after service to their country, and a college degree is a step toward a better livelihood for many returning veterans.

A few facts from recent reports and headlines describe the current environment for veterans:

  • More than one fifth of young war veterans are unemployed. Specifically the jobless rate for veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan wars ages 18 to 24 was 21.1 percent according to a recent report from the Department of Labor. In comparison, the rate for non-veterans in same age group was 16.6 percent. These rates for young veterans were significantly higher than the unemployment rate of young veterans in that age group in 2008 (14.1 percent). For veterans of all ages returning from the recent wars, the unemployment rate in 2009 was 10.2 percent. [1]
  • Historically, younger veterans have had more difficulty than their older counterparts in finding a job. Younger veterans often have less training and job experience. Some joined the military right out of high school. [2] Higher Education provides an opportunity to address this situation.
  • As of last year, 1.9 million veterans had deployed for the Iraq or Afghan wars since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. [3] According to information provided by the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the FY2010 defense budget authorizes more than 2.3 million service members.
  • One in three Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, a traumatic brain injury or some combination of the all three, according to a Rand Corporation study of 2008. [4] This indicates a critical need for colleges to prepare for the needs of incoming veterans.
  • According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs June 2009 State Summary, there are more than 12,400 Washington veterans using GI Bill education benefits and more than 540,000 nationally. [5] Overall 70 percent of veteran students use education benefits according to information provided by Servicemembers Opportunities Colleges of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
  • The new GI Bill has increased the number of veterans and active duty service members who attend four year institutions and enroll full time. According to the Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board (HECB) thousands of returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are re-entering society as college and university students. According the HECB, the new college student pool is "perhaps the greatest influx of veterans since the Vietnam War." [6]
Policy and Practice Innovations at Evergreen

In an effort to fully understand the challenges and opportunities associated with increasing populations of veterans entering college, The Evergreen State College is organizing the first ever regional higher education summit on veteran’s needs, experiences and retention. War and the Soul: Creating Healing Academic Communities for Our Nation’s Veterans is a training and networking conference for those in the higher education and military communities, featuring internationally renowned experts Edward Tick and Nancy Schiesari.

At the event, which takes place May 6 and 7, participants will hear from Dr. Edward Tick, consultant, psychotherapist, and educator with three decades experience working with veterans. They will also work with Nancy Schiesari and discuss her film Tattooed Under Fire, a portrait of soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Participants will also hear from student veterans about their experiences, explore strategies to better serve student veterans, exchange best practices with colleagues from across the region and share knowledge about resources available to students and institutions.

This event is part of Evergreen’s strategy to increase awareness and demonstrate support for veterans through events and policy innovations. The college has also launched a Veterans Support Working Group of students, staff and faculty, and a Student Veteran Organization. Evergreen–with a student population approaching 4,900–also recognizes its more than 100 veterans and 60 veteran dependents among its students, as well as the more than 60 veterans employed as faculty and staff. Annual events include a Fall Quarter Veterans Reception in which a Veterans Medallion is presented to all identified incoming veterans in recognition of their service, a tradition of celebration of Veterans Day for the past 15 years, and Memorial Day recognition efforts including distribution of some 2,000 Memorial Day poppies among a college population of some 5,600 (including students, faculty and staff.)

Evergreen also aims to attract veterans and their dependents through outreach and tuition waivers year round for qualifying veterans and veterans’ dependents. Evergreen is a member of Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges and provides academic credit for military experience and training, as well as an option to earn credit while deployed through individual learning contracts. Approximately 65 dependents are receiving the 100% tuition waiver and approximately 50 veterans are receiving 50% tuition waivers.

"We are giving increased attention to serving veterans well," says Art Costantino, vice president for student affairs at Evergreen. "We recognize that we are in one of the areas of the country that will experience an increase in veterans, we recognize what veterans provide for our campus, and we have a sense of responsibility to serve those who have served us."

The sponsors for War and the Soul: Creating Healing Academic Communities for Our Nation’s Veterans include The Evergreen State College Student Veterans Organization, Glidden Paint, NASPA Region V, The Evergreen State College President's Diversity Fund, Regional Education and Training Center, Squaxin Island Tribe, The Olympian, and the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.

Additional resources:


[1] The News Tribune

[2] The News Tribune

[3] The News Tribune

[4] Military Times Edge

[5] Department of Veterans Affairs (PDF)

[6] Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board


Contact

Jason Wettstein Media & Community Relations Manager
The Evergreen State College
(360) 867-5213
wettstej@evergreen.edu