Eastern Michigan University works closely with the 586 veterans receiving benefits who are returning to school, helping them acquire the financial benefits and services they qualify for. EMU is currently the second-largest school in terms of veterans who receive benefits.
According to Jamie Tidswell, an EMU Veterans Affairs employee, the Veterans Affairs office helps connect returning vets with the resources they need to receive their benefits.
“People seek us out to get benefits,” Tidswell said. “We’re the middle man.”
Much of the benefits Eastern veterans receive are the result of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill passed in 2010, which works to broaden the benefits and services veterans receive.
To receive benefits, EMU students are required to meet certain criteria. All student veterans must have served at least 90 days of active duty or have been disabled within the last 30 days.
Veterans who have served the minimum amount of time, 90 days to 6 months, receive 40 percent of their Basic Allowance for Housing and tuition benefits. Veterans who serve from 30 to 36 months receive 90 percent of their benefits. Students who have been dishonorably discharged are unable to obtain any benefits.
“There’s some more financial benefits associated with the G.I. Bill, and so because of that, colleges are very interested in making certain that veterans understand what those benefits are and making certain that they understand our tuition and fee cost being a very affordable option as well,” said Kevin Kucera, associate vice president of student affairs and enrollment management.
One major challenge facing veterans returning to school is fitting in socially with other students.
According to Kucera, different veterans readjust to college social life with a differing levels of ease.
“There are some that are going to assimilate very readily into our campus that will need very little assistance in terms of transitioning, and that’s awesome,” he said. “If they’re not having any difficulties with the simulations that’s fine, but there’s some that would like a little bit more.”
Other vets, however, might have difficulty readjusting to civilian life.
“Some of our veterans are ready to roll and are quick to assimilate, whereas others need a little bit more help with that transition, and that’s what we want to make certain, that for those who need a little bit more help, we’re able to supply them with the appropriate programming needs.”
Another problem facing returning veterans can be unemployment. Without the military to support them, veterans are forced to find new jobs. Veterans seeking jobs sometimes return to colleges such as EMU to get a new degree.
“Because there are such great educational benefit opportunities, if indeed they’re in a situation where they’re in between professional jobs, it’s an awesome time to come back to school and to get the degree,” Kucera said.
As a highly-populated veterans school, the university works hard to advertise itself as a veteran-friendly school.
“We have to be as aggressive as possible in reaching out and telling our story to as many veterans as we possibly can. Then we got a great story to tell and that’s why so many veterans have picked EMU as oppose to other institutions.”
According to Kucera, Eastern’s status as the second largest veteran university in the state works to display EMU’s success as a veteran-friendly school.
“Again, it shows our dedication to getting the message out, and it also shows the comfort level that the veterans feel once they’re here,” he said. “And I’m pretty confident that part of the reason of why we are second in the state is that the veterans themselves tell positive stories to their peers and colleagues about their experiences at EMU.
“If we recruit 100 veterans to start this fall, I would bet that probably half of them are going to be sharing positive stories with friends or colleagues which could help us recruit the next 100.”