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New veterans bill paves the way to better relations

A bill is in the works at the Maryland General Assembly titled “Community Colleges – Veterans Advisers and Veteran Resource Centers – Established.” This bill requires that all Maryland community colleges incorporate a veteran adviser on campus to provide advice for veteran students, as well as create an on campus veterans resource center.

Even if it were enacted, this bill would not affect UMBC, as it is not a community college. However, the topic of student veterans is still important to address given the specific hurdles and differing experiences that veterans have on college campuses.

Right now, roughly four percent of students pursing an undergraduate degree are veterans, and that number is expected to grow in the coming years. There are different resources needed for these students as they are usually older than the typical undergraduate and may need extra help or guidance.

A veterans resource center could help veteran students find the information and support they need in order to succeed in school. UMBC has Michael Driscoll, a VA Certifying Official, who can assist when it comes to personal and practical matters, such as tuition costs and the GI Bill. However, he is just one person.

Mental health concerning college students has become an increasingly troubling issue. Twenty one percent of students who report to a campus counseling center are reported displaying severe symptoms of disorders. Similarly, there are at least 20 percent of veterans who suffer from PTSD, and many military counselors seem to believe that percentage is a conservative estimate.

Jason Stein, a veteran student at UMBC, stated, “I’m not too sure how heavily [the counseling center] is used so I don’t think we need something specific for vets if that’s not being fully utilized.” However, there are still a few changes that could be made to the UMBC campus to make certain aspects of the transition into becoming a student easier.

There are veteran services and socials on campus, but they are not well advertised. About 250 to 300 students at UMBC use the GI Bill according to Stein, who is active in the Student Veteran SGA. When it comes to events, Stein thinks UMBC should attempt to take College Park or CSM’s example and implement clubs, because “College Park, they have their Terp Vets, and that’s a full on club.” Additionally, CSM wants their own adviser in the department.

However, according to Stein, “I just wish we [student veterans] could be a tighter knit group, … we do monthly events like today we had a veterans luncheon … usually, on campus events, we have like 15-20 people.” This is a fairly small percentage of the up to 300 students using the GI Bill.

Overall, Stein had this to say about the veterans center at UMBC: “it’s efficient but not well advertised.” There is also potential that with the new Events Center that there will be room to add a veterans office or lounge, although this is currently unofficial and talks about the space are still underway.

The bill would be a positive step forward in guaranteeing veteran students the different kind of support they need in making the transition from work life in the military to becoming a student.