WUFT News

Student Veterans Find A Home at UF, Work to Advocate For In-State Tuition

By on November 8th, 2013

As veterans return to civilian life, many of them decide to go back to school. Now the state of Florida may join other states and make it less expensive to do so as an out-of-state student.

During an open house at the Veteran’s Success Center at the University of Florida, student veterans hang out and study together. The center opened in April. It houses counseling services, as well as a Veteran’s Service officer to help students understand their claims benefits.

Leanna Scachetti / WUFT News

During an open house at the Veteran’s Success Center at the University of Florida, student veterans hang out and study together. The center opened in April. It houses counseling services, as well as a Veteran’s Service officer to help students understand their claims benefits.

Now, as the nation celebrates Veterans Day, a student group here at the University of Florida is advocating for the passage of bills to do just that. And UF has created offices and resources to support students who have served.

In 2012, nearly half a million veterans and service members used the post 9/11 GI Bill, according to Student Veterans, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that advocates for student veterans.

A bill filed in Tallahassee earlier this year could give student veterans going to school in Florida in-state tuition, regardless of residency. Florida would join the more than 20 other states that have already done so.

Right now, only veterans who served at a base in Florida, or within fifty miles of the state line, are eligible for the lower-cost tuition.

Kirsten Berling was in the Air Force for three years. Berling knew Florida was where she wanted to go to school, but as a New Hampshire native, paying for college became difficult.

“I was an out-of-state [student] for an entire year,” Berling says. “I had to work a full time job while being a full time student. It was detrimental for my grades and it stressed me out along with the stress of going back to civilian life.”

Matthew Davis agrees. He’s the president of the University of Florida’s Collegiate Veterans Society; a group of student veterans from all branches, majors and ages. Davis says even though he pays in-state tuition, he’s joining the fight for fellow veterans.

“To me this one of the most important academic legislation to come through the state of Florida,” Davis said. “There’s no reason why a veteran should pay out-of-state tuition. They served all 50 states, including this one.”

The UF Dean of Students office has been working with the collegiate veterans group, especially as the student veteran population has grown.

In April, the university opened the Collegiate Veterans Success Center, a space dedicated to student veterans, tucked away in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

At the Success Center in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, student veterans share stories of their time in the service.

Leanna Scachetti / WUFT News

At the Success Center in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, student veterans share stories of their time in the service.

Decorated with flags of each branch of the military and a bulletin board covered with photos from many of the veterans’ days in the service, the space creates a comfortable, cozy atmosphere.

It also houses valuable resources including career and well-being counseling, as well as a veterans service officer who helps students with benefits claims. Anthony DeSantis, who is associate dean of students, works closely with the group of student veterans.

“The challenges are different for everyone,” DeSantis said. “For some, it’s not an issue. But there are some that still are having a transitional problem. They don’t feel like they connect. The students that work here are the ones letting me know what the students want.”

DeSantis says socializing can be a concern for these students. When they come back to school, he says some veterans feel disconnected from the university and their peers.

Don Grove can attest to that. Grove served in the Navy for over 20 years. He now works part time and is a full-time student from Jacksonville. He travels over an hour to and from home each day to attend classes at the University of Florida. Putting himself and two daughters through college, Don says it’s hard to find common ground with many of his fellow classmates.

Inside the Veteran’s Success Center, next to a group of flags representing each branch of the military, a bowl of flag pins is available for any veteran who would like one.

Leanna Scachetti / WUFT News

Inside the Veteran’s Success Center, next to a group of flags representing each branch of the military, a bowl of flag pins is available for any veteran who would like one.

“All my time here is out of pocket. I’m paying for myself [to go to school], and my two daughters,” Grove said. “I’m trying to balance class work, with family life, with my job.”

For Davis, the center is a great starting place for veteran students to access the resources they need, but also socialize and have a place they can call their own.

“The university has definitely reevaluated the needs of the veteran,” Davis said. “I think UF’s services are only going to get better for veterans. It’s a national trend and I think our university is leading the way in it.”

Now that the legislation providing these benefits is pending in Tallahassee, these student veterans are doing what they can to rally support to ease transition for their out-of-state peers. UF’s Collegiate Veterans Society will gather on the campus Nov. 12 to address the bill and rally support for Senate bill 84 and House Bill 35.


This entry was posted in Florida and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
 

More Stories in Florida

CAPTION

Florida Leads Country In Boating Accidents, Deaths

Florida had 577 boating accidents in 2014 and 67 boating deaths, leading the country in both categories. With the large number of boats registered in Florida, some people advocate for stricter boating laws.


Swamp Head Brewery in Gainesville is one of the few breweries located in North Central Florida. The tasting room allows customers to try the different craft beers the brewery has to offer.

Craft Beer Scene In North Central Florida Booms

The number of craft beer breweries in the state of Florida is rising. The state’s tourism industry is helping to increase the popularity of craft beer.


John Peterson, 23, owner of World Honey Market, pulls a frame of
bees out of a hive body to check on honey production. He said he produced close to 
30,000 lbs. of honey in 2013, but only produced half of that in 2014, which he 
attributed to a shortage of nectar in the area.

Florida Bee Populations Growing, Not Necessarily Thriving

While bee populations in Florida show some growth, some factors still keep them from flourishing. Land loss, overcrowding and herbicides pose problems for the bees and the beekeepers.


Scott Richardson, 52, co-owner of Northwest Seafood Inc., fillets fresh-caught red grouper purchased from one of Northwest Seafood’s trusted fisherman in Yankeetown, Florida. “It pays to know your fish man,” said Lee Deaderick, Richardson’s business partner.

Florida Fishermen Face Fierce Competition

Florida fisherman are concerned with the growing taste for imported fish. As imports from other countries increase, questions of ethics and safety are floating to the surface.


BearHunt1

Protestors Voice Concern Over Proposed Bear Hunt

Protesters voiced their opposition to the proposed bear hunt on Monday outside of the Ocala office for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. The FWC is expected to vote on the issue Wednesday.


Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Underwriting Payments