IU was named a 2014 Military Friendly School by veteran-owned business Victory Media Inc., according to a press release from the IU Newsroom.
The annual Military Friendly Schools list includes the top 20 percent of schools in the United States which deliver the best experience for military students, based on the quality of military support on campus, the university’s academic credibility and the percentage of military students enrolled.
Margaret Baechtold, director of Veteran Support Services, said IU has been “very generous with support” for student veterans.
She said IU created the office to support student veterans “long before many schools started thinking about this need.”
Veteran Services Specialist Sarah Gibson said the Veteran Support Services office offers services for student veterans and for veteran dependents, as veterans can transfer their benefits to a dependent.
The office provides a student lounge in the Indiana Memorial Union with veteran and military resources, as well as walk-in math tutoring on Mondays and Thursdays this semester and library research assistance once a week.
Gibson said their primary role is to help students process their federal benefits so they receive financial aid for school.
“Our first priority is to process all the documentation required for our students to get the veteran education benefits they earned while in service,” Baechtold said. “We work with about 420 students each semester who use these benefits.”
Baechtold said she estimated the value of education benefits awarded to IU students in 2012 to be approximately $7.4 million.
Michael Loomis, a 20-year-old student veteran, said he joined the Army National Guard in 2010 when he was 17. He enrolled at IU last year and is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer science.
Loomis earned college credits as part of his military training and said most of his credits transferred when he enrolled at IU.
Many of his credits were undistributed, but counted toward military science classes, he said. However, he said he hasn’t been able to use those credits toward a major or minor because IU does not offer a military science major.
“I wish they offered a military science course here,” he said. “Military leadership as a minor or something ... there’s no specific major to put on a degree or a diploma.”
As a reserve member of the National Guard, he is not yet a veteran, but said Veterans Support Services was helpful to him as well. He went to math tutoring sessions for help with finite math and does his homework in the student lounge.
“I’ve been in there twice this week,” he said. “You can get coffee, do your homework and everyone’s friendly, too.”
Baechtold said Veteran Supports Services provide services like an annual Welcome Dinner and specialized career support to smooth the transition from military to school.
Baechtold said sometimes veteran students feel their age or “non-traditional student” status has more impact on their campus experience than their military background.
“Our students tell us that by and large, they feel very comfortable on campus as veterans,” she said. “But we also know that some come to school needing extra support due to their military experiences — and we are here to provide that or refer them to the offices best prepared to do so.”
— Hannah Alani contributed reporting