UMass joins White House effort to aid veterans on campuses
- The UMass System
August 27, 2013: The University of Massachusetts today announced its participation in the Obama administration's ongoing effort to foster postsecondary educational opportunities and dramatically improve employment outcomes for returning military service members. The University's involvement marks another step in its continuing efforts to support student veterans and ease their transition to the classroom.
UMass is one of more than 250 community colleges and universities in 24 states and the District of Columbia that are adopting the administration's ``8 Keys to Success,'' a series of specific steps that schools can take to welcome and encourage veterans.
"The University of Massachusetts is thrilled to join the impressive list of higher education institutions that are committed to making critical investments in our veterans' futures," said UMass President Robert L. Caret. "A growing number of our students are veterans and the White House effort presents us with another opportunity to build on our work to help these deserving students who have served their country and worked to keep our nation safe.''
For decades UMass has provided transitional assistance and student services to returning military service members -the number of which has grown exponentially in the past few years as soldiers have returned home from active duty in the Middle East. At UMass Boston enrollment of veterans has surged 172 percent in the last eight years to what is now about 620 students. At UMass Lowell, the student veteran population has expanded from 510 students in the fall of 2009 to about 1,350 students this academic year.
Overall, about 2,500 students or 3.5 percent of the 70,774 students who last fall attended classes on the five-campus UMass system were veterans.
All five campuses have undertaken initiatives to ensure that student veterans receive the academic, social and emotional support they need to succeed on campus. UMass campuses in Amherst, Boston and Lowell have all been recognized as Military Friendly Schools, representing the top 15 percent of schools nationwide that deliver the best experience for military students. UMass Worcester has developed strong ties with the US Department of Veteran Affairs and collaborates on programs that directly promote the health and well-being of military veterans, while UMass Dartmouth has created a resource page on the web for veterans, started a Student Veterans Association, and established a Veterans Reading Room in the newly renovated Carney Library.
Additionally, the Office of Veterans Services in collaboration with the Office of Cooperative Education at UMass Lowell and a private foundation has pioneered the "Wired for Work" coop program for veterans in the fields of information technology and computer science. The 6-month coop experience and preparation course are on track to grow over the next three years and to become a model for veterans coop programs nationwide.
"The University of Massachusetts system has paved the way for innovative higher education programs that meet the specific needs of veterans by leveraging their unique skills, abilities and experiences," President Caret said. "Initiatives like Wired to Work and now 8 Keys to Success enable veterans to complete their college diploma and enter into the workforce as skilled and valuable employees."
The aim of 8 Keys to Success is to help veterans afford and complete their college degrees, certificates, industry-recognized credentials and licenses in preparation for jobs in high-growth sectors of the economy.
"The keys to success encourage institutions of higher education to support veterans with access to the courses and resources they need to ensure that they graduate and get good jobs," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "I'm proud of the great work community colleges and universities are doing to embrace these measures."
The "8 Keys to Success" include the following:
- Create a culture of trust and connectedness across the campus community to promote well-being and success for veterans.
- Ensure consistent and sustained support from campus leadership.
- Implement an early alert system to ensure all veterans receive academic, career, and financial advice before challenges become overwhelming.
- Coordinate and centralize campus efforts for all veterans, together with the creation of a designated space (even if limited in size).
- Collaborate with local communities and organizations, including government agencies, to align and coordinate various services for veterans.
- Utilize a uniform set of data tools to collect and track information on veterans, including demographics, retention and degree completion.
- Provide comprehensive professional development for faculty and staff on issues and challenges unique to veterans.
- Develop systems that ensure sustainability of effective practices for veterans.
"This commitment made by colleges and universities will help veterans better transition from the battlefield to the campus, find a good job and strengthen our economy," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "Given a chance, veterans will succeed because they are disciplined, self-starters accustomed to working hard."
Contact: Krista Robinson, 617-646-1028 (office) or 617-650-6153 (cell); Ann Scales, 617-287-4084; Robert P. Connolly, 617-287-7073