Veteran support programs are priority for Tennessee’s Higher Education Campuses

Veterans in Tennessee colleges and universities are receiving unprecedented funding and program support through several innovative initiatives that help them get their degree. In a meeting of the Senate Education Committee this week, Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) Executive Director Mike Krause said Tennessee set the goal to be the best state in the nation for student veterans.

Each year, over 10,000 veterans enroll at Tennessee’s higher education institutions.  Of the 267,000 veterans who live in Tennessee, approximately two-thirds of them have less than an associate degree.

“Through legislation originating in this committee, we set up a standard of support at our campuses called the VETS Act,” Krause told committee members. 

The Veterans Education Transition Support (VETS) Act of 2014 established in-state tuition for all veterans and created the VETS Campus designation to recognize higher education institutions that make veteran enrollment and support a priority.  Krause said after implementation of the act, campuses across Tennessee vied to become the best in the state in supporting student veterans

“It has been fun to watch an arms race to support veterans, which is what it has become,” Krause stated.  “Campuses are trying to ‘out do’ each other to support veterans.”  The program’s support services have helped veterans transition to their academic studies, which is especially critical during the student’s first semester. 

The General Assembly also passed legislation expanding tuition benefits and making it easier for veterans to earn academic credit for prior military training.  A new law passed last year created an innovative web tool to assist veterans in translating their military experience to academic credit.  In addition, the Veterans Reconnect Grant Program which was authorized under legislation passed 2015, has provided almost $4 million to assist student veterans with the financial assistance.

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