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Veterans Enrolled At Ohio State Assisted By Innovative Office
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Ohio State University’s student population has, at times, included large numbers of military veterans. Many have attended OSU using benefits from the GI Bill. In the past some of those students had a tough time fulfilling government and university requirements. But now Ohio State has consolidated services into one department; it’s the Office of Military and Veterans Services.
Before the office of Military and Veterans Services opened about a year ago, students often had to make visits to some two dozen offices on campus. Now all that’s needed is one stop at a building at the corner of Lane Avenue and Tuttle. Director Mike Carrell wants veterans to get the message:
“You’re not alone,” Carrell says. “We’re serious about whatever the issue is, we’re going to help you get through it.”
At times, veterans have been the backbone of the student population. Tamar Chute is Ohio State’s archivist. She knows a lot of university history.
“In the fall of 1944, student enrollment was 11,500. But a year later that number jumps to over 22,000. So we go from 11,000 to 22,000 in one year,” Chute says.
Today there are just over 2,000 veterans attending Ohio State. But there are a host of problems that vets have to deal with when they become college students.
“I didn’t really think about the transition being socially hard and it turns out that it was,” says Angela King.
Angela King joined the U-S Navy when she was 18. During the next six years she was a corpsman focusing on aviation medicine. When she was 24, King decided to enroll at Ohio State. She’d done a lot of maturing in the Navy. She served three overseas deployments aboard aircraft carriers working with F-18 pilots. It was a huge contrast with classmates.
“A lot of my classmates were 19 and we had very different life experiences. I had grown up in my early 20s and we were very defined by the military. And they still had memories of prom and high school and graduation,” King says.
There were other hurdles. King says she went from the disciplined, regimented life of the military, where she says:
“…everything is very laid out for you. Each step for you is very laid out for you and when you go to college it can be kind of overwhelming,” says King.
King found social support in the campus organization Vets 4 Vets. But she found help, too, from the Office of Military and Veterans Services. One of the office’s missions is to reduce the burden of paperwork that veterans receiving GI Bill benefits must file.
“The bulk of what we’re doing day-to-day is to process that paperwork and benefits. It’s very labor intensive, old-fashioned, put it into the computer, upload it to the VA, the VA sends the money back. So we kind of walk them through that process because it can be confusing,” says Carrell.
Carrell is a retired Air Force Colonel. He understands that the VA can be a difficult agency to deal with. But his office helps students maneuver through the VA’s bureaucracy.
“The VA hasn’t paid their tuition on time. We know the VA’s going to pay but we also know that the VA never pays on time. But we know that they’re good for it, too, so we don’t want the student to have to suffer the repercussions for that but we now have a ‘hold harmless’ policy for them. They can register for classes they can go to classes. Whatever it might be that we find, we try to tackle,” says Carrell.
Assistance goes far beyond paper-pushing. Carrell says the office is making a real difference in the lives of veteran-students.
“We had a student who came back from Afghanistan and then struggled with some issues and the things that he had seen. The student was able to get into counseling and get some help on what was driving the issues and lightened his load a little bit on the academics and he’s doing much better now,” Carrell says.
Angela King graduated from Ohio State and is now studying medicine at Duke University. She says she’s proud that OSU has taken a special interest in the lives of veterans.
“It reminds you that you are not alone and that there are other people that are going through the same transitions as you and they also have similar life experiences to you,” King says