During the 2013-14 year, 375 veterans and a larger population of active military are currently enrolled at Weber State University. Their college experience can be a bit different from a student fresh out of high school.
“A lot of people who have been in the military have chosen that instead of going to college right away,” said Randy Wilson, director of Veterans Upward Bound. “So they have been out of school longer than many students and they may not be in school mode when they get here. Their skills may be a little bit rusty, so sometimes college is a little bit harder when they first start.”
There are options on campus to help veterans stay in school. Veterans Upward Bound helps veterans build up skills before they even enroll at WSU so they don’t have to take remedial or developmental classes.
“I was in the Air Force first of all,” said Bryan Kuckak, Veterans Affairs certifying official. “I never really wanted to go to college. I planned on making a career out of the military, which changed when I got injured. I started coming here just because it was close and I was living on base at the time. It’s been a rough changeover, I guess.”
Active military and veterans receive grants and other funding for higher education. Previously, veterans and active military personnel would receive $4,500 a year for schooling. It has recently been changed, so that military students can take 12-15 classes and have them paid for. For some students, that may only last a single semester.
“Veterans have the opportunity to use their educational benefits, and by coming to this office they’re able to sign up to use those,” said Charlie Chandler, coordinator of WSU Veterans Affairs. “They have to go online to apply for their benefits, and once they have done that, been accepted to Weber and selected their class schedules, they come to our office and we help them with the financial process. They have been in the military — perhaps they just got back from a deployment — and they are just trying to figure out the whole system.”
WSU Veterans Affairs’ job is to make education as painless as possible for veterans and active military. If veterans have problems with any of their courses and they need tutoring, Veterans Upward Bound can help them.
“There is a committee that is abbreviated MOVE — it is Military and Veterans Educational Committee,” Wilson said. “There are about 25 or 30 people representing different departments and programs on campus. They meet every two months to talk about issues that might affect military and veterans that are in school.”
Veterans Upward Bound is also there to help veterans break down any barriers they may have when it comes to school. If veterans need tutoring, some may not feel comfortable going to someone 4-6 years younger than they are. Veterans Upward Bound tries to provide these students with tutors who understand their concerns and speak on their level.
“I’m going to school on the GI Bill, and that is great,” said Tyson Balling, member of the National Guard. “Also, because I am a member of the National Guard, I get state tuition assistance and things like that. It’s a common source of income. I think mentally being prepared by the military helps out a ton. What I am doing in school is a cakewalk compared to what I did in the military.”