As a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Army, James Evins, Jr. learned firsthand about the challenges of returning to civilian life in 1998. “During my transition from the military, I found it difficult to transfer my experience to the college campus,” says Evins. “The problem, I soon realized, was not that I had not been a successful soldier but that there was no translator, no bridge, no one person who was able to help me link those experiences together.”
Evins found a way to be that bridge after leaving the service. He’s been Military and Veterans Education Coordinator at John Tyler Community College in Chester since fall of 2011.
“Yes, things certainly have improved,” said Evins, but he says much work remains to raise awareness of veterans assistance programs among students and administrators. “For many of my students, just being able to discuss their plans with someone who shared their background makes a big difference.”
“Supporting our vets, and encouraging them to complete an associate degree is important for their success in life,” said Kim Hobert, VCCS director of emergency planning, safety and security operations. Hobert, a lieutenant in the U.S. Coast Guard, says she often encourages veterans to start their own business after earning their degree.
Tyler is one of seven VCCS colleges with a dedicated veteran’s service center, and designated as a VERITAS college (Veteran Education Resource Initiative for Transition Advising and Success.)
Home to the bulk of the veteran and military-related students in our system, the other VERITAS colleges are Germanna, Reynolds, Northern Virginia, Tidewater, Thomas Nelson and Virginia Western.
More than 19,000 students enrolled in VCCS colleges this semester are active duty military, service veterans, or family members or dependents. These military-affiliated students make up more than 12 percent of our students system-wide.
While it’s no surprise that colleges close to military installations and Virginia’s population centers enroll more military-affiliated students, it’s noteworthy that these students attend all of our colleges, in all corners of the commonwealth. Military-affiliated students make up almost eight percent of the enrollment, for example, at New River, Rappahannock and Piedmont Virginia.
“For as long as I can remember, community colleges have prioritized serving veterans and military-related students,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “Just as we cannot expect members of our military to carry out a mission without resources and training, we cannot expect them to meet their potential at home without appropriate resources and training.”
Three VCCS colleges, Tidewater, Southwest Virginia and Northern Virginia, have been named “Best for Vets” by Military Times for 2020. The national rankings were based on surveys that focused on college policies, academic outcomes and military-supportive cultures.
VCCS launched a web tool two years ago to help military veterans make the most of the training and experience they earned in uniform, offering a streamlined way for vets to upload their Joint Services Transcript to see instantly how many academic credits their work experience could translate into more than 1,700 community college programs.
The portal also provides real-time employment information and enables veterans and service members to explore civilian careers related to their area of expertise or interest.
“We’re thrilled that veterans have opened more than 5,000 accounts on the C2C website, so far,” said Susan A. Moyer, VCCS’s coordinator for credit for prior learning. “Continued strong traffic on the website shows the relevance of this service to our military families.”
Learn more about VCCS and other services for veterans here.
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