We have at least 600 veterans as students on our campus. Each veteran brings unique experiences in serving the nation. I wanted to better understand the transition from military service to the life of a student, so I was very glad some of our student-veterans joined me for the final student lunch of the fall semester. One of the biggest takeaways from our conversation is that the campus community could benefit greatly from understanding the experiences of our veterans.
One of the issues that deserves attention is how student-veterans can gain experience relevant to their career goals in addition to their experiences in the military. The GI Bill does not allow students to take the summers off, making it difficult for them to get the internships or experiences employers seek.
I was asked a very relevant question regarding The Hazelwood Act, which was in the news a lot in 2015. Hazelwood provides qualified veterans, spouses and dependent children with up to 150 hours of tuition exemption and most fees at public colleges in Texas. Hazelwood and the GI Bill are crucial to our veterans as they pursue their education at UT. My father went to college on the GI Bill and would not have been able to accomplish what he has without that support. I am committed to keeping UT affordable for all students, and I will be paying close attention to the ongoing debate regarding the Hazelwood benefit in Texas.
The other obstacle our veterans sometimes face is access to courses, because their aid from the GI Bill is tied to their registration. I am happy to report that the Provost’s Office is working on solutions to address registration issues for veterans. The first is a point of contact on the Graduation Help Desk who will address registration issues on a case-by-case basis. This is in the planning stages, but we hope to have the systems in place by the time summer and fall 2016 registrations begin.
Finally, I would like to thank the leadership we have in Student Veterans Services. Unanimously, the students at expressed their appreciation for SVS. Many student-veterans have attended other universities, and they remarked that the support we offer here is the best they have seen. I want to thank Jeremiah Gunderson, Director of Student Veterans Services, and the Dean of Students for leading such a highly valued and high impact program. UT is committed to serving veterans’ unique needs, and I am glad they have chosen our university to complete their studies.
Gregory L. Fenves, President