Events locally and nationally over a two-week span make nice bookends for the commitment of our country and our university to those who served in the military. On Memorial Day, we celebrated the men and women of the armed forces who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. On Friday at the Governor's Mansion in Denver, Gov. John Hickenlooper will sign into law Colorado House Bill 1350, which extends resident student tuition to active duty military personnel and their dependents pursuing their education on CU campuses.
President Bruce Benson
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Mary Hodge, is the latest manifestation of CU's long-standing commitment to veterans. CU Regent Sue Sharkey championed the bill with her colleagues on the board (which unanimously passed a resolution of support) and also testified on its behalf before senate and house committees at the Colorado General Assembly.
Veterans and their dependents relocate with some frequency. That displacement can make it hard to establish residency for our rigid tuition classification process. The bill addresses the issue and does the right thing for members of the military and their families.
It is the tip of the iceberg of what CU does for veterans on all our campuses. Since President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the GI Bill in 1944, our university has placed a sharp focus on ensuring programming and student services for our veterans.
At our Colorado Springs campus, Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak has established a number of innovative academic and student support programs that meet the needs of the high number of veterans and active duty military in Colorado Springs. UCCS offers extended studies classes at nearby Fort Carson and Peterson Air Force Base. The campus also offers graduate courses to students, faculty and staff at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Some 1,200 veterans and active duty military personnel study at UCCS, part of what led GI Jobs magazine to give the campus the designation of "Military Friendly School," recognition of the top 20 percent of colleges and universities nationally that embrace veterans as students. UCCS provides a special orientation tailored to active duty personnel and veterans to help them navigate the myriad programs and services offered. The campus is also undertaking a renovation of its Veterans and Active Duty Military Center to meet the high demand.
CU Denver recently launched "Boots to Suits," a partnership with the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce that helps veterans find success in the civilian business world. The program was initiated in response to a survey of Denver-area employers, which found perceptions that veterans have strong leadership skills, high integrity and are team players. However, it also found some employers worry about applicability of military skills to business settings, in addition to concerns about post-traumatic stress disorder.
The program addresses the concerns by pairing veterans in their senior year with mentors in the business community, offering targeted internships and a robust career services program. True to its name, the program also partners with businesses that donate money for business suits, which are often in short supply for veterans searching for jobs. The program was the focus of a piece on Memorial Day on the PBS Newshour.
Our Boulder campus has seen the number of veteran students nearly double in recent years, to about 750. In response, CU-Boulder significantly expanded its Office of Veteran Services and established a chapter of the Student Veterans of America. Additionally, the campus (like each CU campus) participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, a partnership with the Veterans Administration that pays some educational expenses beyond those covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
When the governor signs HB 1350 into law on Friday, it will mark another step forward for CU's commitment to veterans. We are happy to make that commitment. Veterans enrich our campus communities and we are proud of our role in providing the education that will help those who served our country take on new challenges in service to society.
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