Middle Tennessee State University was named one of the best colleges in the nation by the Military Times for supporting student veterans.
The publication announced for the fifth year running its Best for Vets: Colleges 2015 rankings today as the nation celebrates Veterans Day. The rankings factor in a comprehensive school-by-school assessment of veteran and military students’ success rates.
According to a Military Times release, Best for Vets: Colleges 2015 is an editorially independent news project that evaluates the various factors that make an organization a good fit for service members, military veterans and their families.
Of the 100 schools ranked, MTSU was the only four-year college from Tennessee to make the list. The university was also recognized in the 2014 listing and the Jennings A. Jones College of Business at MTSU was named a “Best for Vets” business school for 2014 earlier this year.
“MTSU is thankful for the many veterans who’ve chosen to pursue their college degrees on our campus,” President Sidney A. McPhee said. “Our faculty and staff will continue to support them and their families by making resources available to help them successfully obtain their degrees. And of course, we honor their service to our country and community.”
MTSU currently has a veterans’ population of approximately 1,000, which includes veterans and active duty service members and their dependents.
“I have heard from a lot of people that MTSU treated them very well. It’s treated me very well; I’ve got no complaints,” said Cpl. Andrew Thomas, a sophomore in Plant and Soil Science who works with the university’s Military Center for Veteran Success on Campus. “I’m a happy panda. I get to go to school, and that’s awesome.”
The Military Center for Veteran Success on Campus, located in room 124 of the Keathley University Center, employs a full-time vocational rehabilitation counselor, Heather Conrad, who acts as a liaison between the national office of Veterans Affairs and student veterans.
Thomas said the center offers “a broader program for academic achievement for veterans,” involving mentorship, helping veterans understand and apply for VA and healthcare benefits, job placement, and assisting with the often complex and daunting task of registering for classes.
MTSU was the first school in Tennessee with an on-campus representative for VetSuccess. The program is a collaboration between the university and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs which aims to provide a place where students with a history of military service can gather for assistance and peer support. The university also has a standing Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.
Recently, the organization worked with the Information Technology Department at MTSU to develop an analytical information system that can provide on-demand snapshots of the campus veteran community. This would allow the committee to make data-informed decisions and form programs and policies tailored specifically for the veteran community on campus.
Additionally, MTSU representatives are deeply involved in the Tennessee Veteran Education Task Force which aims to help Tennessee become the top state in the country for veteran educational achievement and employment. Also active on campus is the student-led veterans group, Blue Raider American Veteran Organization (BRAVO).
Best for Vets: Colleges is survey-based, but it doesn’t manipulate research to look more “veteran,” according to the Military Times. Editors say the detailed survey requires schools to “meticulously document a tremendous array of services, special rules, accommodations and financial incentives” offered to military and veteran students and to describe aspects of veteran culture on a campus.
“We factor in what is, to our knowledge, the most detailed school-by-school data on veteran students’ academic success anywhere, including graduation, retention, persistence and course completion rates,” said Amanda Miller, editor of Bets for Vets.
Two years ago, only 11 percent of the hundreds of schools surveyed could provide the required level of detail. This year, that figure is up to 45 percent.
“By recognizing only the schools that do the most,” Miller added. “We believe we’re helping to raise the bar in veteran student services.”
Max Smith contributed to this report.
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