Welcome to the Topic Guide on Higher Education.
This is a starting point for information and resources on higher education.
Today, service members, veterans and family members have options when pursuing higher education. For many, the benefits available to our military allow for a choice from a variety of higher education institutions including community colleges, universities, private non-profit schools or for profit schools. Whether using military/veteran benefits or not, it is vitally important to be aware of these options, as well as the many resources available to support the success of the military-affiliated student.
Where to start
When thinking about going to school, consider these factors:
- Research career options – What are your interests? What will you do with your degree? What is the demand for the fields you are looking at?
- Research the different options for schools and programs to find the right fit – This may be very different depending on what you’re looking for. Do you want to go to school on campus? Online? A mixture of both? Are you looking for a large school or a small environment?
- Understand the benefits available to you – This will vary based on when, where and how long you have been or were in the military.
- Be aware of some of the normal transition challenges service members and veterans often face when going to school.
- Utilize the supportive resources available to help you be successful.
How to find a school that is veteran supportive:
Arizona Veteran Supportive Campus Certification – In 2011, a law passed that established criteria to certify an institution of higher learning as an Arizona Veterans Supportive Campus. Veteran Supportive Campuses meet eight criteria to better serve the needs of service members and veterans:
- Conduct a campus survey of student veterans to identify the needs, issues and suggestions of veterans.
- Establish a campus steering committee consisting of student veterans, faculty and staff to share information and to develop programs to establish or strengthen a Veteran Supportive Campus based on best practices but that also integrates the campus culture and identifies the real needs of the student veteran.
- Conduct sensitivity and awareness training on military and veterans’ culture, including related issues such as traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress disorder, physical and mental disabilities, suicide and hyper-vigilance for faculty and staff.
- Establish student veteran orientation programs, including student veteran guides for the first day on campus, an optional student veteran orientation session and at least one optional only course taught by a veteran or by a trained volunteer on veteran issues.
- Have peer mentoring and peer support programs for student veterans.
- Develop and implement outreach strategies to local military bases.
- Have one-stop resource and study centers on campus for student veterans, their families and student family members of the Armed Forces who are currently deployed.
- Promote community-based collaborations to allow the private sector to support veteran’s resources centers through financial and in-kind gift.
The Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services (ADVS) administers the certification process. Once certified, schools are also eligible to be partners on the Military/Veteran Resource Network.
See the list of Veterans Supportive Campuses in Arizona on the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services website. Scroll down for links to schools on the Resource Network.
If you’d like to learn more about the certification process or find out where your school is in the process, contact ADVS.
VA Principles of Excellence Program – The VA has established Principles of Excellence guidelines for veterans and service members. These principles are designed to ensure that educational institutions provide meaningful information to service members, veterans, spouses, and other family members about the cost and quality of educational institutions. Find a participating educational institution.
DoD Voluntary Education Partnership – The Department of Defense keeps a list of higher learning institutions that participate in its Voluntary Education Partnership for those who are receiving benefits from its Tuition Assistance program. You can search for higher learning institutions by state.
What are the challenges service members and veterans might face with returning to school?
- Transition to a different environment – Military life is structured and, most of the time, school is much less structured. In the military, you are surrounded by peers that share a common bond…that may or may not be the case in a school setting.
- Stress – The new environment, mixed with the pressure of classes, homework, etc., can be challenging to manage.
- Balance – Many service members and veterans are juggling more than just school…they may also have a family, work and other commitments that compete for their time and attention.
- Financial pressure – Even with great educational benefits, going to school may involve financial stress. You want to ensure that the financial investment you are making in yourself and your future is well spent.
- Coping with visible and invisible wounds – Many service members and veterans are coping with visible and invisible wounds that can affect their experience and success in a school setting. See below for options to get additional support to address these challenges and help you continue to move forward.
What kinds of supportive services are available?
Pursuing higher education can sometimes be a stressful and challenging experience. Fortunately, there are many resources to support students throughout their time in school:
Campus Veterans Center – These centers are becoming more common (this is one criteria to become an Arizona Veteran Supportive Campus) and might range from a large space for veterans to come and study and socialize at a larger on-campus school to a designated office or person that student veterans can contact for assistance. Either way, the intent is to extend support to veteran students and to connect them with information and campus resources. Check to see if your school has a Veterans Center or office.
Disability Resource Center – Most schools have a Disability Resource Center open to all students. These centers can be very helpful in identifying and arranging accommodations for people who learn in different ways (e.g. dyslexia or conditions caused by visible or invisible wounds of war). They can often provide testing and then work with students and professors to support the student’s success in the classroom.
Vocational Rehabilitation – Both the state of Arizona and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offer Vocational Rehabilitation programs. These programs focus on helping people prepare for and be successful in the workplace and in school. Depending on your situation, you may be eligible for one of these programs.