By Debbie Gregory.
Veteran students have big dreams. But for some, it has been a long time since they have been in a classroom setting. They need to catch up, but don’t want to use part of their 36 months of G.I. Bill benefits to catch up, leaving them without enough benefits to earn a degree.
A new program is bridging that cap for veteran students and making their introduction to college a little smoother.
A-VET is the acronym for Acceleration Veteran Education and Transition. Its first seven-week boot camp started on June 17, and it’s designed for post-9/11 military veterans who want to further their education, but whose test scores show they aren’t quite ready for college-level courses.
A-VET Boot Camp allows veterans to take free remedial classes, so they don’t have to dip into their benefits.
The Wounded Warrior Project gave A-VET Boot Camp a $60,000 grant to kick-start the program. Four veteran students are participating in the first boot camp with three instructors who teach classes in English, math and various skills that will help the veterans adjust to college life. Another seven-week cycle is scheduled to begin in October with 20 veteran students. The program is being spearheaded by the August/Aiken Warrior Project, USC Aiken and Aiken Tech.
A-VET coordinator Sharon DuBose said her office will develop and improve the program based on participants’ feedback. Her hope is for other colleges to begin offering the program as well.
At the end of the boot camp, officials hope veterans will be prepped to take placement tests, and perform well enough to attend the schools or online programs they are interested in.
The A-VET Boot Camp program came about “because we all started putting our heads together to see what we could do,” said Robert Murphy, who is involved with the Augusta/Aiken Warrior Project, and also is the program lead for USC Aiken’s Veteran Student Success Center.
“We didn’t want to have our veterans burning up their benefits taking remedial classes,” Murphy said. “It’s a big problem, and it’s something that should concern us as taxpayers who are putting billions of dollars into the G.I. Bill. We need to know that these veterans are getting degrees or certificates and not just hanging out in school for three or four years and then leaving.”