Southern Vermont College Joins White House's Efforts to Implement Initiatives for Veterans' Success on Campus

August 13, 2013

Southern Vermont College (SVC) was thanked by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for joining President Obama’s administration’s ongoing efforts to foster postsecondary educational outcomes and dramatically improve employment opportunities for veterans.

SVC is the only Vermont school and one of only 250 colleges and universities across the country currently implementing the administration’s “8 Keys to Success” to help veterans on America’s campuses. The “8 Keys to Success” highlight pathways that colleges and universities can pursue to enable veterans’ success as they pursue their education and employment goals. 

President Obama introduced the “8 Keys to Success” at the Disabled American Veterans National Convention in Orlando this past week. “We’re announcing what we call ‘8 Keys to Success’ -- specific steps that schools can take to truly welcome and encourage our veterans,” President Obama said. “And so far, more than 250 community colleges and universities have signed on, and today I’m calling on schools across America to join us in this effort. Let’s help our veterans get that degree, get that credential and compete for the high-skilled jobs of tomorrow.”

President Gross worked on this initiative in 2012 while serving as Senior Policy Advisor to the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, DC. Gross was the Department’s representative on the interagency task force charged with redesigning the transition assistance program for returning service members and their spouses. She also participated in an interagency effort to develop strategies for veteran success in higher education post-discharge. Upon returning to SVC, Gross saw the potential for veterans to succeed at the College through an expansion of SVC’s award-winning Pipelines into Partnership program which has met with remarkable success and first announced SVC’s Veterans’ Scholars Program in February 2013.

“SVC is honored to be one of the first institutions working with President Obama’s administration in implementing ‘8 Keys to Success,’” President Gross said. “I look forward to welcoming our first cohort of veterans in January 2014 and offering valuable programs that will help ease the often difficult transition from military service to civilian life. Through use of the ‘8 Keys to Success,’ both SVC’s Veterans’ Scholars and our campus will be prepared to assist in degree completion and finding employment opportunities for these remarkable men and women who served our nation with distinction.”

SVC’s Veterans’ Scholar Program was developed to reduce the obstacles many returning service members face as they enter and progress through a four-year residential college. Starting in the Spring 2014 semester, SVC will welcome 12 recent veterans, selected by their Commanding Officers or other individuals overseeing veteran re-entry. The selected veterans will visit the SVC campus with their families at no cost prior to beginning their studies. They will have an orientation specifically geared to address their needs. Once matriculated, they will receive ongoing mentoring from peers, faculty and staff throughout their college experience, again without cost. Financial aid packaging beyond existing federal benefits will be provided to the veteran scholars, including through the Yellow Ribbon Program in which SVC participates. Off-campus housing, suitable for non-traditional students and families, will also be made available and will be overseen by SVC residential life staff.

To ensure success, SVC has appointed United States Army Veteran Wayne Hemingway, SVC Class of 2013, to be the liaison to the various branches of the military. Hemingway will collaborate closely with representatives from veteran organizations and veteran support programs to help identify the participating Veteran scholars and insuring that they have a similar college experience to the one he enjoyed post-deployment.

SVC has also recently partnered with the United States Marine Corps’ Leadership Scholar Program (LSP) to promote academic excellence for US Marines at the collegiate level. The LSP and SVC’s Office of Admissions will work with honorably discharged members of the Marine Corps as well as reserve Marines to provide support and guidance during the SVC application process.
The “8 Keys to Success,” expanded in the government’s document, can be implemented in a variety of ways across different campuses, recognizing the broad diversity among institutions of higher education. What is critical is that the “8 Keys” described below serve as guiding principles for all colleges and universities:

1. Create a culture of trust and connectedness across the campus community to promote well-being and success for Veterans.
2. Ensure consistent and sustained support from campus leadership.
3. Implement an early alert system to ensure all veterans receive academic, career and financial advice before challenges become overwhelming.
4. Coordinate and centralize campus efforts for all veterans, together with the creation of a designated space (even if limited in size).
5. Collaborate with local communities and organizations, including government agencies, to align and coordinate various services for Veterans.
6. Utilize a uniform set of data tools to collect and track information on Veterans, including demographics, retention and degree completion.
7. Provide comprehensive professional development for faculty and staff on issues and challenges unique to Veterans.
8. Develop systems that ensure sustainability of effective practices for Veterans.

“The keys to success encourage institutions of higher education to support Veterans with access to the courses and resources they need to ensure that they graduate and get good jobs,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “I’m proud of the great work community colleges and universities are doing to embrace these measures.”

The Obama administration’s “8 Keys to Success” build on its work to provide veterans and military families with a high-quality, affordable education. In April 2012, President Obama signed an executive order establishing the Principles of Excellence that provide protections for our nation’s military, veterans and their families, including by helping to ensure they have the information they need to succeed in higher education and are not taken advantage of in the educational marketplace.

To further veterans’ success in higher education and employment, the VA is also expanding its VetSuccess on Campus (VSOC) and Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership (VITAL) programs, which connect Veterans to VA resources. The Post-9/11 GI Bill has also played a large role in helping returning service members attend college. VA has issued approximately $30 billion in Post 9/11 GI-Bill benefit payments since its inception in August 2009 and helped nearly one million service members, veterans and their families pursue their education.

To see the list of more than 250 colleges and universities working to implement the “8 Keys to Success,” click here. To learn more about the Obama Administration’s commitment to the success of Veterans, service members and their families in higher education, visit the White House’s website