Polk County Itemizer-Observer
By Emily Mentzer
March 4th, 2014
MONMOUTH — Military veterans have different challenges than someone right out of high school, and Western Oregon University is working to help that group of students.
Western already had some resources for veteran students, including a veteran reintegration class, which provides information on how to transition from military to civilian and, more specifically, academic life, said Stephen Scheck, WOU vice president for academic affairs.
But resources have been added with more to come.
“We are working toward having a more and more prominent veteran-to-veteran support network to help with issues they’ll have to cope with in terms of coming back to school,” Scheck said.
“This is a new population of students,” Scheck said. As young people return from wars and overseas deployment, they are of the age to rebuild their lives, he added.
“And education is a factor,” he said. “That’s a population we have not had in a significant number.”
Veterans recruiter Kyle Rodgers, an Iraq veteran, said the programs at Western helped him earn his undergraduate degree and work toward graduate school.
“I have faced my own issues of reintegration, but have found professors and administrators at WOU to be very helpful in overcoming obstacles that could have derailed my educational goals entirely,” he said.
Education will decrease the chances for a veteran to become homeless, incarcerated, unemployed or commit suicide, Rodgers said.
He and the student veteran liaison can help veterans navigate the sometimes complex Veterans Affairs paperwork and assist with any new or transferring veterans as far as Western’s admissions department is concerned.
Those in the military who honorably leave the service have their careers evaluated by the American Council on Education, which translates the military’s training courses and occupational specialties into college credit recommendations.
Western’s registrar then looks at those recommendations and the student’s chosen course of study, and determines which credits Western will accept.
“It can be very frustrating to learn that military service translates to a mere waiver of required PE credits,” he said.
Students may sit down with their advisors and explain why and how their experience qualifies for coursework, Rodgers said. But to make it easier for veterans, he hopes to establish WOU as a Servicemembers Opportunity College Consortium, meaning Western would agree to accept all of a veteran’s college credit earned while in the military.