North Texas Daily

UNT among top schools for veterans

UNT among top schools for veterans

March 10
00:03 2015

Julian Gill / Staff Writer

The Office of Student Veteran Services, a quiet place in the middle of Sage Hall, recently helped UNT make some noise as one of the most veteran-friendly schools in the country.

Military Advanced Education, a publication that gauges the best military and veteran education in the U.S., awarded UNT a “top school” distinction among 600 other institutions featured in the “2015 Military Advanced Education Guide to Colleges and Universities.”

The distinction is based on criteria measuring military culture, financial aid, flexibility, on-campus support and online services. 

“Getting off a ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and coming to UNT, you’re probably going to have a few barriers,” director of student veteran services James Davenport said. “I try to remove any barrier. I help [veterans] out with tutors. I help them out when they’re having problems with their writing lab, money management and things like that. “

Davenport, who served 21 years in the U.S. Army, said veteran services benefits around 2,700 veterans and dependents at UNT. That number is up from 600 when the program started in 2011.

He said the department recently paid UNT over $7 million to provide financial aid for veteran students. 

“We have a one-stop shop,” Davenport said.  “If [veterans] need federal aid, we have the federal aid offices here. We have the state aid Hazelwood representatives here. They have me, student affairs. Once you come in here you shouldn’t have to go anywhere else. ”

The Hazelwood Exemption Act provides qualified veterans with an exemption from tuition.  Davenport also has a scholarship fund for veterans with urgent needs. He said the amount varies depending on the circumstances of the emergency.

“If a veteran student’s car breaks down and he can’t get to class, I might be able to give him a small grant to help pay for his bills,” Davenport said. “That money is set aside to help keep the student in class.”

Davenport said veteran services offers much more than money.

Student veterans like information technology junior Shane Lindsey often uses the computer lab and study rooms available in the office. Lindsey said they are usually filled with veterans during the week.

“It’s a pretty big deal for me, being a veteran who has a significant commute, to have a place that I can come in and get right on a computer and get to work,” Lindsey said.

While the office is the primary outlet for all student veterans on campus, it constantly works in tandem with other UNT programs.

“Upstairs, you have the learning center and down the hall you have the writing center,” Davenport said.  “Of course, you have the career center and housing department. I would say we all work very well together. “

The department sponsors individual and group therapy sessions for military-affiliated students in Chestnut Hall. Davenport said he encourages veterans who might have post-traumatic stress disorder or other ailments to seek help at the Office of Disability Accommodation.

He said his main priority is making sure student veterans graduate with a degree and a job. 

Veteran affairs advisors help students with their degree plans, while student veteran mentors personally help them navigate the university atmosphere.

Job fairs are held annually in the veteran services office.

“I think the camaraderie is most important versus anything else,” student veteran mentor Whitney Williams said.

Veteran services will host a mixer March 21 at the Gateway Center from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Lindsey said it’s important to be around veterans with similar situations.

“It gives them somebody to talk to who understands what they’ve gone through. It makes it a little bit easier to relate,” Lindsey said.

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