Veterans Resource Center helps military students achieve success in college
More than 2.2 million soldiers, Marines and sailors have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. We will be seeing 90,000 troops return from Afghanistan by 2014. Many are packing up the boots and dusting off the books to pursue higher education when they get back.
This fall, a record 590,000 veterans were enrolled under the Post 9-11 GI BILL program. That’s an increase of more than 100,000 since last year.
Katherine Bachman, Dakota County Technical College’s Veterans Resource Center coordinator, has seen an influx of veterans on campus. “My calendar has been full,” Bachman said. “I’ve worked with a lot more service members over the last semester than previously.”
Having more veterans in school charges colleges and universities with the task of helping military members meet their educational goals. Dakota County Technical College takes the responsibility seriously and has proven very good at helping vets excel at higher education.
Out of 140 schools, Military Times Edge ranked DCTC #5 on the list of Best for Vets: Career & Technical Colleges 2013. G.I. Jobs also ranked DCTC as a Military Friendly School, which is the top 15 percent of schools nationwide that deliver the best experience for military students.
What sets DCTC above the rest?
The Veterans Resource Center at DCTC was established in 2007 in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs. The college offers low-cost tuition and multiple program options while providing a positive educational environment that takes veterans to the next level.
“The main thing is communication,” said Bachman. “It’s about offices within DCTC and Dakota County working together to ensure that each veteran receives the best service possible.” She credits Kerry Lurken, the certifying official at the college, for processing tuition and benefits for every veteran who walks through DCTC’s door. “When it comes to the paperwork, my first contact on campus is Kerry,” she said.
Prior to DCTC, Bachman worked in veterans resource centers at four other colleges. She has experienced some of the typical pitfalls at other colleges and has set a high standard for DCTC. “Out of all the colleges I’ve worked with, DCTC is the best at taking care of veterans.”
In addition to her work on campus, Bachman is very active in the veteran community. She works closely with County Veterans Service Officers in the area who have specialized knowledge to assist the needs of veterans and beneficiaries. Bachman also has contacts in the Minnesota Family Assistance Center in Rosemount, which has even more state and federal military support programsat a veteran’s fingertips. Other programs provide basic information about military legal issues or pay, referrals for home maintenance, referrals for financial counseling, and much more.
“We try to bring other services on campus as well,” explained Bachman. She recently organized a meeting for veterans at DCTC with a Crisis Intervention Team and the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center to address a topic that many veterans have faced, post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. “I wanted our veterans to identify a transition patient advocate,” she said. “If there’s ever an issue on campus with a veteran, someone can call the advocate who knows what the veteran is going through.”
Excellence in Education
Dakota County Technical College is one of 82 schools in Minnesota to participate in the Principles of Excellence, released by the Office of the Press Secretary in April 2012. They are guidelines that the schools must adhere to when working with veterans and their federal benefits. They agree to:
- Provide students with a personalized form covering the total cost of an education program.
- Provide educational plans for all Military and Veteran education beneficiaries.
- End fraudulent and aggressive recruiting techniques and misrepresentation.
- Provide accommodations for Service Members and Reservists absent due to service requirements.
- Designate a Point of Contact for academic and financial advising.
- Ensure accreditation of all new programs prior to enrolling students.
- Align institutional refund policies with those under Title IV.
One of the biggest challenges Bachman faces while working with veterans is “making sure they are getting all of the benefits they are entitled to.” She points out that having an entire team helping veterans from beginning to end has led to successful outcomes for veterans.
Bachman is also working with someone at Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership, or VITAL. It’s a new program offered through the VA that’s geared to help veterans succeed in college.
According to Katy Strub, a licensed independent clinical social worker and VITAL outreach coordinator, the program’s goals are to reduce the number of student veterans on academic probation, help student veterans graduate on time, improve access to VA health care and mental care health care, and ease access to VA and other community support.
“Most of all, VITAL intends to meet the student veteran where they are at, which is on campus,” said Strub. “I have a lot of flexibility to go where the need is.”
All the measures Bachman has taken at DCTC to build up the Veterans Resource Center are paying off. “Veterans stop by and thank me for helping them,” she said. Her most memorable compliment? A thank you card from a veteran saying, “I love having you here.”Top photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Darek Kelsey, left, and Lance Cpl. William Tipper, both scout snipers assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, make their way to the firing line at a live-fire range at Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province, Afghanistan, March 23, 2013. (photo courtesy of the DoD)
For more information about the DCTC Veterans Resource Center at DCTC, contact:
- Katherine Bachman
Veterans Resource Center Coordinator