SA senators lobby for military students to have first choice in classes

October 10, 2014
by by Lillianna Byington | Hatchet Reporter

Student veterans could soon get privileged class registration.

Student Association senators are working with GW Veterans to allow veterans to register before other students. The student leaders say the option would help student veterans better transition from military to civilian life.

Veronica Hoyer, vice president of GW Veterans, said many student veterans have to balance classes with families and jobs, and need to pick and choose classes that fit their personal schedules.

“It is different when dealing with undergraduates who have jobs while in school,” Hoyer said. “The majority [of student veterans] are older, many married, some with children and cannot afford the lifestyle that students have when shaping their schedule.”

Eighty-five percent of student veterans across the nation are 24 years old or older, and 47 percent have a family, according to data from Student Veterans of America.

Pennsylvania State University, many southern universities as well as the California state system offer priority registration to student veterans.

The University offers priority registration to students in ROTC programs, freshmen and sophomores in the University Honors Program and student athletes because their involvement in those programs can limit the types and times of classes they can take.

Adeli Duron, director of veteran services at the University of California, Irvine, said prior to establishing veteran priority registration in 2008, veterans at the school questioned why ROTC students were able to choose their classes early and they were not.

And because military-affiliated students can apply for their GI Bill benefits once enrolled in classes, the sooner they can register, the quicker they’ll receive their payments, he said.

“Even though priority registration applies to all veterans, it is especially helpful for those receiving GI Bill benefits so that their benefits are awarded on time,” Duron said.

Brian Alden, a sophomore who spent 10 years in the Marine Corps, said allowing student veterans to register for classes early would help them avoid having to choose between taking classes and working to financially support their families.

“Only 50 percent of veterans graduate because they have to make those hard choices,” he said. “Even one year [of not getting the necessary courses] is huge when you have family pressure to be the breadwinner.”

About 52 percent of U.S. veterans who went to college with federal benefits between 2002 and 2010 earned their degrees last year, according to the Million Records Project. Non-veteran students graduated at about the same rate.

G.I. Jobs magazine has named GW a “military friendly” school for six consecutive years.

Emanuel Johnson, the president of GW Veterans, said even with the amount of support the University offers for military affiliated students, being able to register early for classes would give them a better shot at success in school.

“The overwhelming amount of support that the University has given to veterans is really unparalleled by any other private institution," Johnson said. "The next step to ensuring our veterans graduate is priority registration.”

University spokesman Kurtis Hiatt said because the legislation had not been officially introduced in the SA, the University could not yet comment.

GW recently appointed Victoria Pridemore as the new associate director for the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services after the department's founding director, Mike Ruybal, abruptly left the office this summer.

Over 1,300 military affiliated students currently attend GW. In 2009, the University joined the Yellow Ribbon Program, through which universities match the benefits given to veterans under the Post 9/11 GI Bill.