“North Carolina’s public universities are trying one of the most coordinated approaches in the country for drawing military veterans who’ve left the service into higher education,” U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said Tuesday.
Michael Dakduk agrees. The SVA executive director met with Secretary Shinseki and North Carolina University System President, Tom Ross, last week in Chapel Hill, NC to discuss what the state, the system, and individual campuses are doing to support military veterans and active duty servicemembers. SVA currently has 16 chapters in North Carolina and is invested in assisting UNC’s efforts to support veterans.
President Ross has met with the executive director on numerous occasions, both traveling to DC and inviting Dakduk to UNC Wilmington for the Chancellor’s Military Advisory Board meeting earlier this year. “Not only does UNC standout for its support of student veterans within the larger framework of the university system,” Dakduk said, “but no other system has done as much to get the buy-in of every chancellor to ensure that student veterans are also receiving ‘on the ground’ support from their campus.”
Secretary Shinseki, Mr. Dakduk, and President Ross also met with campus university leaders from Fayetteville, Greensboro, Durham, Boone and Winston-Salem.
“I’ve run into a number of other presentations that are campus-specific, but what I thought I saw here is a coordinated approach to discussing the opportunities and why it’s important to leverage them across 16 campuses, which I think is phenomenal,” Shinseki said during a meeting with reporters.
The UNC System has recently implemented policies that would remove some of the roadblocks that stand in the way of many student veterans obtaining a college degree, including making it easier to transfer experience into academic credit. North Carolina is also one of many states considering legislation that would waive residency requirements for veteran and military servicemembers for tuition purposes. If passed, the legislation would allow student veterans to attend a public postsecondary institution at the much lower in-state tuition rate.
“We want to help them to stay in North Carolina,” Ross said. Not only do veterans enrich the classroom, but it is common for graduates to seek employment near their Alma Mater, which can help both the quality of education in the state and its economy.
“No other system has reached out and engaged my organization with the sort determination that President Ross has,” Dakduk said, “The fact that I am here right now, that the Secretary is here today, shows me that he is eager to make the entire UNC system a leader in supporting student veterans. They are on the right track, but there is still much work to be done.”