Increasing veterans’ access to higher ed

Johnson City Press • Jan 15, 2019 at 8:00 AM

East Tennessee State University’s commitment to veterans is impressive.

Beginning this spring, ETSU is expanding scholarship opportunities and waiving out-of-state tuition for military service members, veterans or members of military service families.

The school will offer 15 $1,000 scholarships each semester to military spouses or children. An additional 10 scholarships of $1,500 each will go to veterans who no longer receive GI Bill benefits. Incoming military-affiliated students also can waive out-of-state tuition.

As we reported in Saturday’s edition, retired Col. Tony Banchs, the school’s director of Veterans Affairs, says ETSU is the sole university in Tennessee to offer such incentives.

That’s fitting, given ETSU’s proximity to the Quillen Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Mountain Home, and the presence of much of the university’s health sciences division on that campus.

Offering veterans and their families more opportunities for life improvement and career skills should be a high priority in education, especially given the service they have provided to our country and the sometimes difficult transitions they have in civilian life. Too many vets struggle, and it’s especially disheartening to see so many in homeless situations.

Veterans receive significant education and develop life skills in the armed forces that should be readily applicable to civilian careers. Finding ways to connect those dots is essential for the U.S. to do right by its servicemen and women.

We’d like to see more of those connections happening before they ever leave the service — “dual enrollment” of sorts. That’s why we took note of “Army University,” a program that became fully operational in November 2017 to align many of the Army’s education programs under a unified academic structure. Along with learning the skills needed for service jobs, enlisted Army soldiers have the opportunity to obtain college education while simultaneously serving their country.

It’s a concept that’s long overdue. Together with increased access at higher education institutions like ETSU, the U.S. can better serve the people who serve it.

Kudos to ETSU for offering part of that puzzle.

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