To the Editor:
I read your recent article about finding ways to educate more veterans (“An Academic ‘Boot Camp’ Tells Soldiers, You Belong Here,” The Chronicle, August 25). I was dismayed, though, to realize quickly that the purpose of the article was simply to pat the backs of a few elite universities who are making minimal investments in reaching more veterans. The numbers involved (12 students here, 40 students there) are not enough to make a substantive difference, either on the elite campuses involved, or for the veteran population in the United States.
You correctly identify regional comprehensive universities as a far better fit for veterans. These students are self-selecting and attending institutions like Austin Peay State University for good reasons: We actually have infrastructure built to support them; there are hundreds of other students on campus just like them; and, we make curricular and other academic decisions (e.g. credit for prior experience) in ways to make them better off.
Austin Peay State University, a public masters-level regional university just outside of Nashville, currently enrolls more than 1,400 veterans. At least 26 percent of our 10,000-strong student population is military-affiliated (active duty, reserve, Guard, veteran, or dependent). In order to support these students, we have a division of military and veteran affairs with a staff of 24, headed by a vice president on my leadership team who is a retired major general. Much of that staff is located in a 5,200 square foot building dedicated solely to military-affiliated students. Combining institutional funds with state and federal grants, Austin Peay spends millions of dollars each year to open pathways to and through college for veterans.
If elite institutions are serious about opening their doors to veterans, perhaps they should take a page out of our playbook of best practices, and your article would have been so much more valuable to universities trying to make a difference.
Austin Peay State University