CU-Boulder Welcomes Student Veterans

Thanks to a tremendous opportunity offered by the new Post-9/11 GI Bill, colleges and universities across the country are witnessing an ever increasing number of veterans enrolling in school after completing their military service. CU-Boulder is no exception and is striving to make our university a great place for today’s veterans to pursue their educational dreams.

While determining the exact number of veterans enrolled at CU-Boulder is a difficult proposition, we believe there are at least 740 student veterans taking classes on campus. There are also a large number of military dependents, sons and daughters of active duty military personnel, who are benefitting from a provision of the new GI Bill that allows military personnel to transfer their educational benefits to their dependents. When you factor in students enrolled in the Army, Air Force, and Naval ROTC programs as well as active-duty military personnel pursuing graduate degrees, the number of CU-Boulder students with a tie to the U.S. military certainly exceeds 1,300!

So, what is CU-Boulder doing to promote the success of this growing segment of its student population? In reality, a great deal. The university has built a robust veteran services team to provide counseling, referrals, outreach, program development, and financial aid. As a retired Air Force colonel, I am currently leading the team as director of Veteran Services, reporting directly to the vice chancellor for student affairs. Joining the team is the new veteran services coordinator (a recently retired naval officer) who will focus on working directly with student veterans and serve as their first source of support. A veterans’ educational benefits/VA certifying official who is the primary liaison with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, works closely with the coordinator.

In 2011, several student veterans got together to establish the CU-Boulder Student Veterans Association (CUBSVA). This student-run organization has become a key auxiliary (ally) of the Veteran Services team. One of the primary reasons that student veterans established this organization was the belief that nobody could help a veteran transition from military to campus life more effectively than student veterans who have already made the transition. The last few months have validated this belief. Early indications suggest that this organization is making its mark and will become a key component of the campus community.

While campus leaders realized that building a strong Veteran Services team was a critical step in the right direction, they also recognized the need to establish a physical location for Veteran Services. Consequently, the Division of Student Affairs established a Student Veterans Center in the Center for Community. This resource center provides “one-stop-shop” convenience as well as a place for student veterans to relax and congregate. CU-Boulder believes that the educational experience it has to offer our veterans is second to none and the university is committed to demonstrating that we welcome and value veterans, military personnel, and their dependents as an increasingly important part of our campus community.

By George W. “Barney” Ballinger
Colonel, USAF (retired), Director of the Office of Parent Relations, Director of the Office of Veteran Affairs