Education benefits, challenges for veterans

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We’ll discuss benefits and challenges veterans face in getting an education. Andrea Banks, the district veteran services coordinator for Maricopa Community Colleges, and Matt Schmidt, admissions specialist at the ASU Pat Tillman Veterans Center, will talk about the issue.

Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of Arizona veterans looks at the benefits and challenges to veterans looking to further their education. Andrea Banks is here with us and Matt Schmidt at the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, featured on "Cronkite News." Thanks for joining us.

Andrea Banks: Thank you.

Ted Simons: The vets furthering their education. What are the big issues, the big challenges? What do you hear most?

Andrea Banks: Transition. I would say that most veterans have a lot of issues transitioning out of the military where it's very structured to a college campus, where they are free to make their own schedules, go to parties -- [laughter] You know, transition to the campus.

Ted Simons: Getting back into the flow of school, getting into the flow of school. Some of these folks, your last schooling was high school. It could be four some odd years later you're in college.

Matt Schmidt: Couple things going on. One of those is you're going from one culture that's unique to another very unique culture. One of the big differences that we see within the Pat Tillman veterans center, in the military you're given a mission, a team and tools. You get to college and you get to choose your mission, team and tools. They are trying to communicate that to veterans is a bit of a challenge.

Ted Simons: What do you tell them?

Andrea Banks: Tell them there's resources available to them. There are disability resources. We try to provide support for them. One thing we're noticing is it's hard for them to ask for help. As I was telling Matt earlier, most military members it's not hard for them to call in military support when there's an air strike, but when they get on to the college campus their pride gets in the way and it's hard to ask for help.

Ted Simons: I would imagine better disciplined, self-sufficient, following orders, these will help veterans throughout life and certainly in school, but you have to figure out how, correct?

Andrea Banks: Absolutely. That's something that we're working on is to help them transition. We're working on the MCTAP program, an extension of the DOD's transition assistance program where we help with their workshop that provides assistance how to be a successful student, how to transition, things of that sort.

Ted Simons: We have culture shock and financial aspects.

Matt Schmidt: One of the big parts of financing when it comes to students, student veterans getting out of the military there's a gap typically between getting out and getting into college so students are worried about how they are going to pay to get to that point. That's one. Two, your pay, the G.I. bill can pay you a monthly stipend, it's significantly less than what you're accustomed to making in the military. You went from a full-time employee to half or part-time based on the stipend you receive.

Ted Simons: What is the status of the G.I. bill? Isn't there a post 9/11 G.I. bill as well?

Matt Schmidt: It's the most up-to-date the V.A. offers. Prior to that was the Montgomery G.I. bill chapter 30, now chapter 33. It's significantly better for veterans. By and large than the chapter 30.

Ted Simons: The post 9/11, you can pass benefits on to spouse and kids, correct?

Matt Schmidt: There are exceptions. You can but the military uses that more as a residential tool, so the military will say we want you to stick around and if you do and follow the basic parameters you can pass it along to a spouse or dependent.

Ted Simons: You mentioned those with disabilities. Challenges for those with psychological trauma. What are you hear?

Andrea Banks: One thing that we're doing at Maricopa Community College is trying to educate faculty and staff so we're having sensitivity training and more specifically we developed something called the green zone training where we teach faculty and staff about these issues and we do like scenarios so that they become accustomed, they know how to handle those situations.

Ted Simons: Give us an example.

Andrea Banks: If some military veterans with PTSD, they may not want to sit with their back to the door. If an instructor doesn't understand that they may think the student is being interruptive or may need to leave the class because of another issue but it may be due to things they have experienced in the military.

Ted Simons: These are the kinds of things that maybe some veterans are not all that comfortable telling the instructor. There's a spot in the room I'm not all that crazy about. Can I move over there? It's difficult I would imagine to says those things.

Matt Schmidt: It is but what we have noticed is the more we're consistent with our message but, hey, we've got your back, we're your teammates, other fellow veterans are your teammates, you pick your mission, your teammates, your tools, when they pick up these tools they realize it's okay to be vulnerable. It's okay to ask for help. When I do, I succeed.

Ted Simons: In the military it's not okay to fail. I know that -- university life and college life, it's not a bed of roses. Some things you're better at and some you may not succeed at. Talk about getting past the idea it's okay to fail a little bit if it means greater success down the line.

Matt Schmidt: I think in the military, I can't speak for every military member, to a certain extent you do fail. You make minor failures. Not the major failure but you make the minor failures so you don't make the major failure. I think it's possible in a world of higher education to make a bigger failure because it's a safer place to do that, but to say failure is not okay, I think it still happens. If we can let veterans know, to grow and get better you have to make mistakes.

Ted Simons: You see that as well?

Andrea Banks: Absolutely. Sometimes military or veterans may feel say for example they may want to drop out of school if they fail a class. We want them to know it's okay. You made this mistake but you want to move forward and see what we can do to help you so you don't make the same mistakes.

Ted Simons: Can you offer anything regarding the controversy of for-profit universities and how veterans are told to steer clear, avoid in some cases?

Matt Schmidt: From my vantage point it's hard to say because a lot of for-profit universities are still being promoted on military bases. And I still think that veterans probably could benefit from for-profit universities. It's really hard for me to say, but I know there's large concern there because there have been some pretty egregious acts by the for-profits.

Ted Simons: Deceptive marketing practices. Is there such a thing is a principle of excellence?

Andrea Banks: President Obama established a principle of excellence so institutions of higher learning provide the same level of service for veterans. For example each college should have a veterans center where the students are able to network and lounge and study with each other and so it's a camaraderie on college campus.

Ted Simons: I would imagine at ASU that's there.

Matt Schmidt: Absolutely. There are veterans' centers on each of our campuses. I will tell you the way we set up our center is a bit different than at the community college. There's a transition that happens from the military to a community college and a transition from a community college to ASU. ASU is a large institution serving a lot of people. We like to use our veterans' center as a springboard into the larger ASU community. So instead of having veterans hanging out all day long in the center we have space for that, we really encourage them to have a cup of coffee, sit down, learn about the resources that have launched into ASU.

Ted Simons: There are services, programs, there are things available for veterans; college campuses, university campuses. They are there.

Andrea Banks: Absolutely.

Ted Simons: It's just a question of getting the word out and leg veterans know it's okay to get help.

Andrea Banks: Absolutely. At Maricopa we have ten college campuses. They can receive the same services and help them identify the resources they need to be successful.

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us. Friday on "Arizona Horizon" it's the "Journalists' Roundtable". Fallout continues over the presidential preference election and a bill that greatly cuts the state's enforcement of dark money expenditures is signed by the governor. That's next on the "Journalists' Roundtable". That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thanks so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Video: "Arizona Horizon" made possible by contributions from the friends of Arizona PBS, members of your PBS station. Thank you.

Andrea Banks: District Veteran Services Coordinator for Maricopa Community Colleges, Matt Schmidt: Admissions Specialist at the ASU Pat Tillman Veterans Center

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