Fayetteville State University and UNC-Pembroke, both located close to the state’s largest military base, Fort Bragg, have the highest number of students that receive financial aid from the GI Bill, according to recent data from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
“(Veterans) tend to gravitate towards those schools that are near the base they exited,” said Ann Marie Beall, the director of military education for the UNC system.
FSU has about 13 percent of its students on the GI Bill. UNC-P has about 7.8 percent.
UNC-P’s student population comprises about 10 percent veterans. The university has several satellite programs that attract veterans from Fort Bragg.
UNC-P was named a military-friendly school in 2014 by the G.I. Jobs magazine Military Advance Educators.
“In truth, only a veteran can determine if a particular institution is ‘military friendly,’ but we want veterans to have no doubt that UNC-P will always be making the effort to make things right for our military students,” said Michael Clawson, UNC-P coordinator for military and veteran services, in an email.
Other UNC-system universities are working to accommodate student veterans.
Alison Jenner, head of UNC-Charlotte’s Veterans Student Services Office, said more universities should set up an office to address student veteran concerns.
UNC-C has about 3.8 percent of students who receive benefits through the GI Bill.
Each university in the UNC system has an official who oversees GI Bill spending to make sure the benefits are being used properly, but not every campus has a veterans service office.
In 2009, a GI Bill extension offered benefits to post-9/11 veterans. At the same time, the UNC system saw a spike in veteran enrollment.
The UNC system expects even more veterans to enroll as troops continue to return from overseas, Beall said.
The Department of Veteran Affairs did not release veteran graduation rates, but UNC-system schools are working on calculating that database to help student veterans.
State residency often becomes an issue for prospective student veterans.
In-state tuition is given to active-duty military members and their dependents regardless of where they live.
But military veterans who were stationed out of state are not considered N.C. residents after they leave active service, and they must pay out-of-state tuition.
“North Carolina has its own strict policies (for residency) — you have to show that you came here for a reason other than to go to school,” Jenner said.
The system Board of Governors will ask the N.C. General Assembly this summer for the authority to determine residency for all veterans so that they could receive in-state tuition.
Clawson said the UNC system needs to be a stronger proponent to pass legislation for in-state tuition for all military-affiliated students.
“North Carolina is one of the largest recipients and beneficiaries from our service members — it’s only a win-win proposition.”
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