Veterans who faced challenges during their service return to Wisconsin with leadership skills that can be a great match for the education and training available through CVTC and other colleges in the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS). By accessing the WTCS, veterans contribute to their college community, which only enhances their value to Wisconsin business and industry.
According to the American Council on Education (ACE), more than 2 million soldiers are transitioning to civilian life after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The number of students using their Wisconsin GI Bill benefits in the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) has increased dramatically since these new state education benefits became available during the 2005-06 school year, when about 1,000 eligible veterans or the eligible spouses or dependents first used the program. During the 2011-12 academic year, almost 4,500 Wisconsin veterans or spouses or dependents used the Wisconsin GI Bill in the WTCS.
Last year 105 individuals enrolled at CVTC used federal veterans’ benefits and many more family members of veterans accessed the Wisconsin GI Bill funds.
Many veterans want a career somewhat related to their military jobs and lifestyle so they choose criminal justice or firefighting programs. Others follow their dreams and pursue something completely different. Meanwhile, spouses and dependents are considering different career options as well.
While the Wisconsin GI Bill provides some of the most generous education benefits in the nation, WTCS colleges have responded to the sharp increases in enrollment of veterans and their family members by increasing the services and assistance they provide that is specifically targeted to these students. The extra emphasis on helping veterans achieve their educational goals is important.
“It is hard for them to adapt to the freedom of college life. Plus they may have physical disabilities or emotional struggles,” explained Deb Ludwikowski, CVTC veterans certifying officer.
In addition to tuition assistance, veterans can also get federal benefits, such as a housing allowance and stipends for books and supplies. Veterans’ family members may also be eligible for educational benefits.
Like other students, veterans want to get to work. However, it may be difficult to translate military skills into job skills back home. CVTC and other WTCS colleges work hard to evaluate military transcripts to see whether veteran students can use their military experience and other education to qualify for credits that apply to a student’s educational program and goals. Since 1999, the WTCS has formally recognized the value of military experience and education credits so that students can get a jump-start on earning a WTCS credential. They also help veterans build post-military resumes for the job search.
At CVTC, Ludwikowski makes sure veterans are put in contact with the agencies and people who can help them.
“We have a gentleman who comes from the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis once a week to help our veterans access their health care benefits,” she said.
The community has a number of services available for veterans, often accessed through the county veterans service officer. Ludwikowski acts as a liaison between CVTC’s student veterans and those resource people.
This fall, during the Field of Honor display, CVTC hosted a veterans information fair, in which organizations offering help to veterans had information available.
“CVTC has really stepped up to identify the needs of veterans and how to best help veterans and their families succeed,” said President Bruce Barker. “Veterans bring a wealth of experience and add tremendously to our college communities and we are honored to help them succeed.”