For the third straight year, UNCG has been recognized as a Military Friendly School, putting it in the top 20 percent of schools nationwide that are doing the most to support veterans and their families.
The distinction is based on a data-driven survey of more than 10,000 schools approved for Veterans Administration tuition funding. The 2014 list highlights 1,868 colleges, universities and trade schools that stood out for recruitment and retention of students from military backgrounds. The list is released by Victory Media, a veteran-owned small business.
UNCG’s military population has doubled since the fall of 2007, despite the fact that the campus is not near any military bases. “Veterans are coming here and coming here for a reason,” says Dedrick Curtis, a veteran and the university’s veteran services coordinator.
In addition to the continued recognition from Victory Media, Military Times Edge Magazine put UNCG on its 2013 Best for Vets list, the only North Carolina public university to make the cut.
Curtis says the need to support veterans financially and psychologically is imperative as more and more of them flock to campuses like UNCG. “The numbers are just gonna keep going up as the military draws back its forces and cuts manpower. Then, of course, there’s a bad economy and the incentive of the GI Bill.”
In Fall 2012, about 475 students received VA funds, including 241 veterans and active military personnel and 234 dependents. These numbers represented about 2.3 percent of the total student body, giving UNCG the fifth-largest veteran population in the 17-campus UNC system.
And veterans are thriving in the classroom. UNCG’s veterans on campus have a graduation rate of 72 percent — much higher than the 53 percent graduation rate for non-veterans.
UNCG opted to join the VA’s Yellow Ribbon program, where universities agree to allocate funds to cover educational expenses beyond what is allotted through the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The VA matches the university’s contribution.
Yellow Ribbon is crucial for out-of-state students paying higher tuition rates. For 2013-14, UNCG can fund up to 29 students under Yellow Ribbon, setting aside up to $6,825 per student, per year — the largest contribution among North Carolina’s public universities.
In Fall 2012, the university launched its veterans bridge loan program, a mechanism for Financial Aid to make loans to veterans while they wait for military benefits. Bridge loans are not need-based and are handled on a case-by-case basis.
Curtis says the loans help ease the difficult transition from military to college life. “They literally bridge the gap between starting school and getting their back pay from the VA.”
UNCG also has established a new Veteran Students Support Fund. Donors can choose to contribute to the university’s Yellow Ribbon funds; offset educational expenses for guardsmen and reservists, who receive only $345 per month with no stipend for housing or books; or provide financial support for military dependents, who may not receive VA funds.
Mike Tarrant, UNCG’s director of strategic initiatives, says the administrative support for veterans on campus is simply part of the larger picture, a supportive atmosphere for all students. “UNCG is just known for its welcoming and inclusive environment, whatever the population.”