Story by Charles Booth, APSU
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – When the national publication Military Times released its annual “Best for Vets: Colleges 2014” list earlier this week, it named Austin Peay State University as the top school in Tennessee for serving and supporting military veterans. The newspaper listed APSU as the 57th best university in the country for veterans to attend, and it gave the University four stars for the academic support it provides these students.
“Any member of the military community wishing to pursue a degree would be doing themselves an injustice if not first looking to APSU for their educational needs,” Michael Cleveland, president of the APSU Student Veterans Organization, said. “The greatest thing about APSU’s stance on veteran and military family programming is that it is done as a labor of service to those who have served, not for reward or recognition. The kind of genuine concern found within APSU can not be anything but successful in establishing a university of service excellence.”
More than 20 percent of APSU students have a military connection, making the University the state’s largest provider of higher education to soldiers, veterans and their families.
“Austin Peay doesn’t just make sure the veteran students are taken care of, they make sure the families of the veteran students are taken care,” Wayne P. St. Louis, a 2011 APSU graduate and retired command sergeant major in the U.S. Army, said.
The University works hard to provide assistance and services to these individuals, and APSU’s efforts have been praised by major publications and the federal government. This December, Military Advanced Education magazine will list APSU in its 2014 Guide to Military-Friendly Colleges and Universities. Earlier this summer, the federal government recognized APSU when it joined more than 250 community colleges and universities across the country in agreeing to implement the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ “8 Keys to Success.” That initiative seeks to help veterans succeed on campus.
A few weeks later, the Department of Veterans Affairs partnered with APSU because of the large size of the University’s veteran population. That partnership put a VA vocational counselor on campus to help veterans transition into student life and assist them in achieving their educational goals.
In October, when the federal government shutdown threatened to end the Tuition Assistance program for active duty military students, the University quickly developed the APSU Active Duty Military Tuition Assistance Scholarship. The program was intended to help more than 700 active duty APSU students enroll in the Fall II term at the Austin Peay Center @ Fort Campbell. The reopening of the federal government on Oct. 17, two days prior to the Fall II term, reinstated the Department of Defense’s TA program.
“Our military students are such a strong part of who we are as an institution,” APSU President Tim Hall said. “These individuals enrich our campus life daily. They’ve committed themselves to serving our nation, so we’re committed to serving them.”
The University does this through the APSU Center @ Fort Campbell, the University’s Military Educational Task Force, the Student Veteran Organization and the APSU Military Student Center. Other APSU offices, such as Residence Life and Career Services, have spent years developing methods to assist veterans entering the University.
APSU also hosts a Military and Veterans Graduate Recognition Ceremony three times a year. During the ceremony, veterans, reservists and active duty military personnel are given a red, white and blue cord to wear with their cap and gown during commencement. The students are also presented with a special APSU Military Coin. The University created the coin in 2011 as a way to honor these individuals.