The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday October 27th

UNC SERVES program aims to improve UNC-system schools' accessibility for veterans and military students

Program is in its initial stages

Adjusting to college life is never easy for incoming students — especially if they are transferring from a foreign battlefield.

To make that transition easier, UNC-system officials are launching a new initiative, UNC SERVES — Systemwide Evaluation and Recommendation for Veterans Education and Services.

At its inaugural meeting in Chapel Hill last week, system officials discussed making universities more accessible to active service members, veterans and their families.

The program is still in its planning stages, but the stated goal is to improve the access, retention and graduation from UNC campuses for those connected with the military, which is a growing student population across the state, said Kimrey Rhinehardt, vice president for federal relations and military affairs for the UNC system.

Rhinehardt said North Carolina has the third-largest active duty military population in the country, with more than 116,000, and an increase is expected as more servicemen are relocated to bases in the state.

“If we want to continue to attract more military students for the future, we need to adopt better educational methods for them,” she said.

Active duty military personnel and veterans in the state tend to gravitate toward major military bases such as Fort Bragg and the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point for information about education programs, said Steve Duncan, co-chairman of UNC SERVES.

Although schools such as UNC-Wilmington and East Carolina University offer a variety of credit transfer and long-distance education programs for military students, it is institutions like the University of Phoenix that are able to draw from a larger, nationwide pool, Duncan said.

“When you look at education centers on bases, very few UNC-system schools are represented,” he said.

In addition to offering more academic counseling and credit transfer opportunities for students already exposed to several military training programs, Duncan said UNC schools need to promote more aspects of veteran student life on campuses.

Many veterans seeking higher education are about 25 years old — a stark contrast with the majority of college freshmen.

“It can be awkward when they’re treated like normal college freshmen,” Duncan said. “These students have already dodged bullets.”

Duncan said the long-term vision for the UNC SERVES program comprises a cohesive package of educational programs accessible to military students at all UNC-system institutions.

Ann Marie Beall, co-chairwoman of UNC SERVES, said the inaugural meetings were attended by about 40 officials from nearly all of the UNC campuses, including vice chancellors, admissions officers, veteran advisors and faculty and student representatives.

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