UW-River Falls ranked 82 out of 86 in the “Best for Vets” four-year schools by Military Times.
Military Times is not a United States Government site, but is owned by the Gannett Company that also owns local stations like KARE-TV and USA Today. They are an independent source for news and information for the Military Times community.
According to the Military Times website, a survey was sent out to hundreds of schools, comprising of 150 questions that delved into school operations in unprecedented detail. Six hundred schools between four-year, online and two-year schools answered the survey. The information gathered from the survey showed that more schools are tracking the academic success of their military and veteran students, but a majority of schools still do not.
“The survey pretty much asked if we had a one stop shop for veterans to go, like a veteran’s club,” said Sharon Seidl from the Veteran Services Office at UWRF. Seidl started her position with Veteran Services this past July.
“Myself and Blake Fry filled out the survey,” she said.
The survey evaluated statistics commonly used to track student success and academic quality, including student loan default rates, retention and graduation rates and student-faculty ratio.
“We track semesters to see if students are struggling,” Seidl said. “I haven’t been here for a spring semester, so I’m not sure if we track graduation rates.”
Another factor evaluated by Military Times was the training offered to faculty and staff on military issues, including the transition from military to civilian life, post-traumatic stress and brain injuries. UWRF faculty and staff have received no training.
“It’s been done in the past,” Seidl said when asked if UWRF trains faculty and staff on how to handle veteran students. “I’m looking at bringing it back for the next school year.”
The University of Nebraska, Rutgers and the University of Southern Florida all ranked in the top 10 for the “Best for Vets” survey, because they met almost all of the survey’s criteria for an exceptional school for veterans, including faculty and staff training.
“We should just be excited that three Wisconsin schools made the rankings,” said Seidl. “I don’t think any state has been represented this well with veteran services.”
UWRF’s Veteran Service Office offers several helpful resources on campus, including assisting students in receiving their requested educational benefits, raising awareness of campus resources available to students and also raising awareness of federal and state resources available to veterans, according to the UWRF website.
What makes UWRF’s Veteran Services Office unique is that all employees are military veterans. “Somebody is always there to talk, especially Sharon,” said UWRF student and veteran Bryan Carlson. “All the other schools I have been to are not always there for you.”
The mission statement of the Veteran Services Office is to ensure student veterans, reservists, National Guard, active duty and family members receive university support in achieving academic success.
Although UWRF has plenty of room for growth in its services for veterans, Seidl stressed how important it is for student veterans to have a place to go to.
“Not every Wisconsin school has a place for veterans to go.”