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Oct. 17, 2014

CSU programs ease transition of veterans

By Melanie Morris

Veterans studying in the loungeFor more than 95 years, Nov. 11 has been the day reserved to honor veterans around the country every year. Parades, ceremonies and events are organized to pay respect to the men and women who have served our country.

While returning to the normalcy of everyday life can often be a struggle for veterans, attending school after serving in the military can elicit an even bigger obstacle. The transition isn’t always easy and Cleveland State University provides services to assist veterans with their conversion.

Initially, veterans are provided many financial assistance options to pay for their classes. The GI Bill is a law that provides multiple different financial plans to choose from that best fit the veteran’s situation. Even if a veteran is receiving these benefits, they can still receive financial aid from Cleveland State.

“The certifying of the educational benefits has been made very streamlined here [at Cleveland State],” Jan Niblock, Financial Aid and Veterans Affairs certifying official, said.

In addition, a work-study program was designed for veterans who are receiving educational benefits and attending school at least three quarters of the time. The Veterans’ Administration pays them to work and there are six or seven positions on campus available through this program.

The Veteran Student Success Program (VSSP) also helps veterans transfer smoothly into Cleveland State. The program, located in Rhodes Tower, provides a computer room, quiet study room and a place for veterans to socialize.

“We have a place where they can sit around, meet others like themselves and transition slowly back in and that certainly helps,” Niblock said.

Mike Kessinger, who was in the U.S. Army for six years, said that the center is very beneficial for him because fitting in was the hardest thing he had to overcome. He said it’s nice to talk to people who have the same problems as him and it allows him a place that’s familiar.

“It’s like a safe zone for us,” he said.

The classes veterans have to take are another huge focus of the VSSP. A subset of the program focuses specifically on the veterans’ first year of college after serving. Niblock said that since they are not just out of high school, their introduction to college life has very different needs than those of the typical freshmen.

“I’m almost 30 years old and the majority of the students in my classes are between 18 and 20,” Kessinger, a sophomore Organizational Leadership Management major, said.

“Making new friends and relationships is harder with someone who doesn’t understand what we have gone through.”

Other educational issues veterans may face include having more freedom and not constantly being told what to do. Since their routine in the military is very rigid and followed consistently, adjusting to the independence can cause a problem. They’re also taught to be self-reliant and feel that they’re supposed to be able to do everything by themselves.

“Some of them (not all) do not do well because they miss classes, don’t do the work needed to pass the class and don’t ask for help,” Niblock said.

Kyle Varga, who was in the service for three years, said that even though he hasn’t taken advantage of all the services Cleveland State has to offer, he did realize that his educational transition was harder than he expected.

“I must admit, with it being my first time actually applying myself in academics, I did struggle with studying and reading efficiently,” Varga, freshman Biology major, said.

Niblock is proud of the way Cleveland State has made the school “user friendly” for Veterans. She said she’s heard from some Veterans that they chose to come to this school because they’re treated like a person and not a number.

“They chose to put their lives on the line for us to continue to live free,” she said. “We want them to be able to return to a life where they can be part of society and not looked at differently.”