After serving their country in the armed forces, some veterans face a tough readjustment to civilian life. These struggles often translate into a difficulty affording college. But a proposal under consideration by the Michigan legislature could ease veterans’ concerns. The proposal would qualify U.S. veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for in-state tuition at Michigan colleges, even if they’re not originally state residents. The bill would give veterans a much-needed break and counter some of the challenges they face after military service. The state legislature has a duty to support this cause.
Last Tuesday, University student veterans spoke to the Senate in support of the new proposal. In addition to giving veterans in-state tuition, the proposal, created by the national organization Student Veterans of America, would create campus programs to help veterans acclimate to student life after spending several years in the military. Other changes include easing deadlines for veterans to fill out applications and pay fees as well as permitting the transfer of more credits for military training. The goal of the bill, according to SVA President and Air Force veteran Derek Blumke, is to ease the difficult transition from military to civilian life that veterans often face.
For veterans, reentering the civilian world after military service can be jarring. They are forced to adapt from a very structured lifestyle to a more relaxed social setting. After the active life required in the military, staring at a blackboard for two hours can be a challenge. Counseling can be required to overcome the culture shock and this bill would help give veterans the support they need by giving them a tuition break and creating some helpful programs.
Luckily for the state, helping these veterans won’t even cost any extra. That’s because the money to pay for veterans’ in-state tuition costs is provided by the GI Bill, which stipulates that the federal government can pay veterans’ tuition. The lack of a financial burden on the state makes this proposal an even more appealing change.
Encouraging veterans to enroll at the University is also valuable because they bring a kind of diversity that is often overlooked. This diversity is grounded in the different experiences and points of view that veterans offer. Making it easier for veterans to attend the University broadens students’ understanding and exposes them to a life that most will probably never experience themselves.
The University has already shown a commitment to assisting veterans. In January 2008, the Office of New Student Programs created a special council devoted to veterans’ affairs. The Student Veterans Assistance Program aims to help veterans apply to college and transition to the college environment. And other universities around the country also have programs to help veterans — Ohio State University and Minnesota State University at Moorhead both have offices of veterans’ affairs similar to the one at the University of Michigan. These policies are an encouraging sign that veterans’ needs are being addressed in Michigan, and this new proposal will expand Michigan’s efforts.
The University can certainly do its part to make this change as smooth as possible, and passing the proposal will push other universities to help out, too. This bill would go a long way toward managing veterans’ needs more responsibly and the state legislature should recognize its importance by approving it without delay.