Soldiers have traditionally experienced difficulty returning to school to use their GI Bill benefits. Sometimes, veterans who are older and have families find it difficult to juggle family responsibilities with a full college course load.
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From Combat to College: Helping Veterans Using GI Bill Benefits Transition into Campus Life

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Starting August 1, 2009, the new GI Bill will cover full tuition and more for many more veterans. In response, the number of veterans attending college in fall 2009 is expected to jump 30% from last year. Under the new GI Bill expanded by Congress last year, the number of military veterans starting or continuing their studies in fall 2009 is expected to be 460,000, up from 354,000 in 2008, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Congress voted last year to dramatically expand the GI Bill and effective Aug. 1, 2009, the new GI Bill will cover tuition and fees for any in-state public university, a housing allowance, plus $1,000 a year for books and supplies.

Still, soldiers have traditionally experienced difficulty returning to school to use their GI Bill benefits. Sometimes, veterans who are older and have families find it difficult to juggle family responsibilities with a full college course load, and sometimes, without enough support for the transition from military life to campus life, "fitting in" at college can be overwhelming for military service members.

In response, colleges are offering veterans-only classes, adding counselors and streamlining the enrollment process, all to support more soldiers choosing to use their GI Bill benefits now.

COLLEGES HELP MILITARY WITH CAMPUS "CULTURE SHOCK"

Soldiers who return to college after leaving the military often have difficulty interacting with people who don't understand wartime experiences. But in college classes with other veterans, military students find they can relate more easily.

In 2007 at Cleveland State, Professor John Schupp formed some freshman-level classes with all veterans, so help military students could support each other. The program proved successful and in 2008, the University of Arizona adopted the same program. Now, other colleges in a dozen states are working on programs modeled on Cleveland State's guidelines.

MORE COLLEGES RESPOND TO VETERANS' UNIQUE NEEDS

Soldiers often face difficulties with campus bureaucracy and other aspects of both college and civilian life - and colleges all over are responding.

The University of West Florida in Pensacola is adding counselors to help service members with post traumatic stress disorder or other emotional problems.

The University of California Los Angeles has short orientation sessions for veterans, and an Iraq and Afghanistan veterans' readjustment group.

Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn. is the largest veteran-enrolled college in the state, with 15% of students receiving GI Bill benefits. Recently, the school has been holding community meetings about the new GI Bill, adding faculty for the expected increase in students using their new Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits and opening a college extension building on the base this year to serve military students.



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