Public universities survey veteran students

A new survey of military veterans enrolled as students at South Dakota public universities finds veterans generally rate on-campus services favorably, but also identify a number of resources they would recommend for future implementation.

In an effort to gauge whether South Dakota public universities are effectively serving veteran students, the South Dakota Board of Regents recently conducted a first-ever survey during the fall 2011 semester.

"Our intent was to see how veterans view our efforts, and also to find out what we can do to improve services to that student population," said Jack Warner, the regents' executive director and CEO.

The survey results were presented to regents when they met last week in Aberdeen.

With more post-9/11 veterans separating from military service and entering higher education, colleges and universities across the country are giving new attention to the scope and quality of student veteran services. South Dakota is no exception to that trend, Warner said.

Warner noted that a new veteran-friendly law, which takes effect July 1, will waive for military veterans the one-year residency requirement to qualify for in-state tuition and fees at South Dakota public universities.

"We also have five of six public universities rated as GI-friendly by a national publication, and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is recognized as one of the top institutions in the nation in providing service and support to veteran students," he said.

The survey indicated that veterans believe campus faculty and staff are sensitive to the unique needs of veteran students, but that students' use of services and resources vary widely by campus.

Included on a requested list of resources and facilities were special academic advising personnel for veterans, veterans' resource centers, a Web page for veterans and visits by speakers to discuss veteran-related issues.

Some of these services have already been implemented on South Dakota campuses, and others are in the planning or discussion stage.

Representatives of South Dakota public universities also met last week with student veterans at a strategic planning session organized under the leadership of Sen. Mark Johnston of Sioux Falls.

The group met to explore a number of student veteran issues, and continue efforts for improving student veteran success within the university system.

"As a community, we need to embrace and respond to the unique needs of this growing student population," Johnston said.

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