The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee looked at “Access and Supports for Servicemembers and Veterans in Higher Education” in a hearing yesterday, following on the heels of a similar hearing by a House Veterans Affairs subcommittee last week.
Among the higher education witnesses were David Carlson, coordinator of student veteran services for the University of Vermont, and Kimrey Rhinehardt, vice president of federal relations for the University of North Carolina (UNC) Chapel Hill, who reinforced many of the points UNC System President Tom Ross made last week in the House hearing.
Rhinehardt said UNC’s veterans support programs and policies came about after careful study and review of best practices, most of which came from the ACE Toolkit for Veteran Friendly Institutions. Although more than 94 campuses now have VetsSuccess centers, there is still a strong need to increase the support system for these students.
Because the hearing was also a part of the preparations to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA), much of the discussion was focused on how to improve financial assistance for veterans’ education, and on issues of accountability. The Post-9/11 GI Bill has been an incredibly successful program since enacted in 2008, assisting more than 1 million veterans with some $40 billion for postsecondary education.
However, as Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) pointed out, there is still a need for financial aid beyond these benefits. She is working on a bill that would modify the financial aid formula to help veterans and other students leave school with less debt. It was one of several pieces of legislation mentioned at the hearing that could possibly be included in a future HEA reauthorization bill.
To view a webcast and read witness testimony, see the committee’s website.