Thursday, December 2, 2021

First-ever vets resource center to open Thursday

MSU is opening its first-ever Veterans’ Resource Center in the Student Services Building on Thursday, but administrators and campus leaders still haven’t fleshed out exactly what services it will offer.

“What I envisioned is a community center for veterans,” said Jerred Pender, president of MSU’s Student Veterans of America, or SVA, chapter. He imagined it as a place where they can go to get free coffee, study, see tutors and get advice on GI bill benefits and other services from a knowledgeable employee, perhaps even a paid SVA member.

It’s unclear if administrators had the same thing in mind, but Pender said the center is a step forward in making the campus more veteran-friendly. In the past, he criticized university officials for not making a concerted effort in helping veterans, but he said the campus is “evolving,” citing the center as evidence of progression

Advocates have complained in the past about the university’s arguably few on-campus resources for veterans at MSU. Denise Maybank, the university’s vice president for student affairs, previously told The State News that those discussions led to the creation of a web-portal offering information for veterans searching for help. She suggested the resource center would connect students and their families with appropriate resources and services, but was not specific as to what those services will be.

Maybank did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education Douglas Estry also called the center’s creation “an important event” for the university.

SVA Vice President Kent Dell said it hopefully will help student veterans navigate the university bureaucracy and provide another reason for them to attend MSU.

The university currently does not employ any full-time staff dedicated solely to addressing veterans issues, as the University of Michigan and other universities in the state do. Maybank previously said university officials are considering such a position, but offered no timeline of when it might happen.

Still, prospects could be looking up for student veterans in other ways.

Michigan’s 15 public universities now are offering in-state tuition to all veterans, regardless of whether they’re out-of-state students, the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan announced last Friday.

That was a program offered only to active-duty service members in the past, but now it’s being extended to veterans and their dependents.

State lawmakers have been busy on the same front, with House Democrats recently releasing a report detailing a veteran-friendly legislative agenda.

Among the proposals are the creation of a framework that would deem schools “military friendly” by offering additional state funding to such institutions.

Democratic Reps. Harvey Santana and David Knezen — both of whom are veterans from the Detroit area and leaders of the task force — introduced a resolution that would offer in-state tuition to all veterans attending a university in Michigan. Rep. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, has a similar resolution.

It’s unclear whether those are superfluous proposals after Michigan’s public universities decided to do that on their own. But Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, said it could be necessary if institutions decide against the tuition policy.

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