For the fifth year in a row, Murray State has been designated a Military Friendly School, among just 15 percent of colleges to be awarded this title by the veteran-owned marketing and education company, Victory Media.
The firm bases its ratings on universities’ self-reported data for criteria, including how many veteran students the institution serves and the number of programs offered to them. Victory Media published its list of designated schools last month to aid service members in selecting the school best suited for them and award them the most benefits per the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.
Adam Horton, president of the Veterans Student Organization, said Murray State’s status as a Military Friendly school is important to him and something he has worked hard to ensure continued each year.
When Horton first enrolled at Murray State as a student in 2010 it was not so “Military Friendly.”
“When I arrived at the school, I had no direction from the current Veteran Affairs office as to what needed to be done to properly obtain my G.I. Bill benefits,” he said.
“I found that there was no Veteran’s organization, support group, mentor group or anything of the kind. It was very frustrating to me right from the beginning and that frustration carried on throughout 2010 and into 2011.”
Horton said he found most of the Veteran Affairs Office’s staff at the time to be apathetic and unhelpful, but as the personnel in that office changed, he sensed a different attitude.
Murray State now offers a veterans lounge, free counseling and tutoring and has created a veterans liaison position to direct students personally to the on-campus service they require.
These services often pale in comparison to the support fellow veteran students can provide.
“Completing your time in the military can be a very daunting task,” Horton said. “Getting out of an environment where every detail of life is mandated and controlled by regulation brings a level of stress to many veterans that is very easy to offset by connecting them with others in the same position. There is no specific organization or plan that can really cover that need except for veterans to step in on their own. Murray State has been extremely lucky to have a group of men and women with a similar past that have stepped forward to help others just like themselves.”
Veteran servicemen and women make up approximately 4 percent of the student population: about 400 students.
Chris Jeter, Murray State’s Veterans Affairs school certifying official, said apart from the new services offered to veterans since he was a student at Murray State, this growth in the amount of enrolled veteran students been one of the largest changes he’s seen on campus.
Jeter said, with budget cuts to the U.S. Department of Defense and withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 2011 and Afghanistan in 2014, the University has seen a spike in veterans.
With continued troop withdrawals and more veterans looking for schools, Jeter said Murray State’s status as a Military Friendly school will be even more important to the University.
President Bob Davies said Murray State being listed in the top 15 percent of military friendly schools reflects the faculty’s and staff’s ability to work with veterans and ensure that they are on a path toward graduation.
He said veteran students are different from the average Murray State and so it’s important that their needs are being met.
“The veterans are bringing with them special circumstances that we need to make sure that we’re addressing,” Davies said. “We need to think about the advances and changes that we need to incorporate in order to make certain we’re helping all of our student population.”
Story by Ben Manhanke, Staff writer