UT Supports Students, Soldiers, Veterans

KNOXVILLE — Pending congressional legislation could make more people eligible for veteran’s program benefits at the University of Tennessee and other schools.

Dr. Ernest W. Brewer, director of UT’s Veterans Pre-College Program, said Congress this summer will vote on Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Amendments to the act would make military reserves or National Guard members called to active service eligible for Veterans Upward Bound services at colleges.

Currently law requires at least six months of active service for eligibility, Brewer said.

“This amendment, if approved by Congress, will be great news for students who serve short terms of duty,” Brewer, who is also a professor of educational administration and policy studies, said. “They have postponed their education to serve their country and deserve full benefits of our veterans education programs.”

UT payroll and registrar’s offices report 13 students, staff and faculty in military reserves called to active duty this semester.

Special arrangements for these reservists include withdrawal from course enrollment, refund of all fees, and maintaining employment status and insurance.

Under the amended act, they also could receive academic needs assessment; diagnostic and academic placement testing; individualized educational plans; career counseling; advising and admissions assistance; financial aid advising; academic tutoring; college life adjustment workshops and other services.

Joel Coates, program associate director, said the program is one of only 43 in the nation, and it serves at least 120 students per year from 26 East Tennessee counties.

“We offer veterans a welcome bridge between the military and college or university life,” Coates said. “We are veterans helping veterans. Our goal is to help ease the transition into postsecondary education.”

The project at UT has served more than 1,550 veterans since it started in 1989. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Veterans Upward Bound program, it brings more than $1.2 million in federal support to UT in a typical four-year funding cycle, Coates said.

UT also serves as the national data collection and analysis center for an ongoing longitudinal study of Veterans Upward Bound Programs, tracking college enrollments, persistence, graduation rates and related data on veterans served.

Coates said the UT program enrolls about 27 students yearly. Some have become distinguished students and successful alumni, he said.

Mark Klinkenberg served six years as a submarine nuclear reactor operator in the U.S. Navy. He enrolled at UT through the Veterans Pre-College Program in 1992, graduating in 1996 summa cum laude in accounting.

Klinkenberg earned the law degree at the University of Missouri and won the Council for Opportunity in Education 2002 TRiO Achievers National Award, honoring distinguished participants of federal programs such as Veterans Upward Bound. Klinkenberg was the first veteran ever to win the national award.

Holly Kathleen Kemp, a Navy veteran and human resource development major in UT’s College of Education, Health and Human Sciences, received academic advising from the UT Veterans- Pre-College Program in June 2001 and enrolled at UT that Fall.

Kemp was awarded the inaugural Tennessee Valley Human Resource Association scholarship for 2002-2003. She won the National Defense Service Medal for her work as a U.S. Navy damage control specialist at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Fla.

Veterans Upward Bound projects are among the “TriO” education opportunity and access programs funded under the Higher Education Act. The projects are referred to as Federal TRiO Programs because initially only three such programs were authorized-Upward Bound, Talent Search and Student Support Services.