Written by: Chris Schmitt, Nick Rucker, and Maggie Slater

Introduction

        This research project was centered around the nation’s military veterans, both Active and Reserve.  Whether veterans have been recently separated, still enlisted or have been out for a long-time suicide has been a big issue in the military.  Many vets come home from deployments or separate from them military and do not feel the connection they felt with their brothers and sisters in the military.  All military members have access to what is known as the GI bill which is basically a “free ride” scholarship to college.  It helps pay for books, cost of living and tuition as well.  Why are there so many suicides a month when veterans have access to all these types of advantages. Several colleges in Omaha were reviewed to see how military supportive they are. School’s were chosen based off of reputation, websites, to see just how user friendly they were, and how much information they contained related to military matters as well as how knowledgeable they are about military related issues. Vets are faced with many challenges and a lot of the paper work and terminology can be very intimidating to many military personnel.  The way the school’s websites define these terminologies and how knowledgeable the school is can better help our vets get their lives together after separating from the military.  Getting more and more military involved in schools after their separation or even years after they got out can help boost their morale and help they feel like they belong to something bigger, like they felt in the military.  Now even though it will not be the same feeling of bondage that they have felt in the military it will be a good feeling to be a part of something bigger than them while continuing their education to better themselves and their future.  The biggest part is military members come with a blank check to pay for school with the use of the GI Bill the school is guaranteed the money without the worry of the student losing federal funding or not being able to afford college.  Now the GI Bill money should not be the main concern of the schools they should be willing to accept but it is a big opportunity that the schools are missing out on as well.  The goal was to find out how “Vet Friendly” Omaha’s three major colleges were.
The data was collected from Creighton University, University of Nebraska at Omaha, and Bellevue University to see which out of the three had the most benefits to military personnel.

Methodology

The steps that were taken to gather the information on the different Veteran Programs for each of the selected colleges in the area were done by using the websites of the colleges. The college websites were investigated and evaluated using the format of each web page, the user friendliness of the page itself, and the information given on what each college had to offer. Each University’s websites were looked at and bullet points were created for each of the schools pros and cons.  For example, UNO’s veteran page had the smiling faces of soldiers making it appear that veterans would be happy to attend their school, Creighton and Bellevue University did not making their pages look bland. Links were red and bolded making it easy to get to the page needed. The other schools had small tabs with little writing. They listed the programs, study areas, and chapter breakdowns whereas the other two schools were very minimal on what they had to offer.  The pros and cons were listed as bullets underneath the three school names which were later translated to a data sheet in Excel.  Themes were developed from all three of the findings relating to what the research topic revolved around.  From there the information was taken and each of those themes were placed into an excel spread sheet and pieces of the data that were collected were placed into the themes to get a better picture of what was being accepted by each school. The data was analyzed thoroughly and debated several times on what themes were chosen. Bellevue University and University of Nebraska at Omaha had a lot themes that had to be limited and condensed into the ones that are currently being used now but although Creighton was limited information it was used as well.  Even though Creighton University was severely lacking compared to the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Bellevue University, Creighton did share several themes with the schools.  One of the themes that was agreed on was the main theme, the knowledge of the different GI Bill Benefits.  They are classified into Chapters such as 1606, 36 etc.…, and each of the school’s webpages shared a decent knowledge in the different chapters but where Creighton fell severely behind was in the use of being user-friendly which was another major theme.

Findings

The findings that were collected from each page varied in differences. UNO’s page proved more user friendly and more inviting. This was concluded by the pictures of happy soldiers. Creighton differed from the others by offering a fifty percent discount on select programs such as Masters of Arts and International Relations and Masters of Science and Physics. Bellevue Differed by offering the SALUTE Honor Society. SALUTE members are eligible to apply for a variety of national scholarships. These scholarships are designed to support student veterans who need supplementation of their GI Bill funding or who do not have GI Bill funding. UNO also had a lot more programs offered for military members such as Vets in Tech which helps veterans in technology related fields find employment with Employee partners local to Omaha such as First Data, Union Pacific and Raytheon.  Vets in Tech also does free counseling, resume review, and other various workshops for Vets in tech related fields they will also pay for two technology related certificates per year (one per semester) up to 500 dollars as well.  The other schools had no such programs on their websites specifically designed to place Veterans in jobs when they graduate.  Bellevue was really support of military transfer credits being accepted as well as offer 6 week courses, a “Preferred Tuition” of 250 per credit hour for military as well but with Bellevue being regionally accredited it kind of only focuses around Omaha area.  While UNO which does offer tuition assistance, Counseling, Mentoring and tutoring is nationally accredited.  The Website for UNO talks about how friendly and helpful the VA office was and offers free mentoring, resume review, career counseling, as well as a quiet place to study and relax.  Bellevue offered those as well while Creighton had no information about that on their website.  All schools are spouse friend for military families which is big because a lot of the time military spouses can go to school while their husband is deployed or stationed in the US, all the schools offered the same benefits to spouses that they offer to military and veterans alike.  Bellevue seemed more geared to Vets and military that want to “fast track” through school, basically get in and get out without taking a lot of the general education courses that are required by most Universities, but the only downfalls is that Bellevue is only regionally accredited.  Bellevue also offers accelerated degrees specially for active duty military while UNO and Creighton are more for the veterans rather than the active.  UNO and Creighton give the more “traditional” college experience while Bellevue will help veterans fast track through their degree and get them back into the working field.  For those that are already separated Bellevue offers a housing assistance, though the website did not have much detail on it, UNO and Creighton did not offer any sort of housing assistance.  UNO offers financial assistance and the VA office will help if need financial assistance is needed and it is stated on their website but not for Creighton.  Bellevue and UNO accept all military chapters for school payments. Creighton appeared to only accept two of the major payment methods for military students. Bellevue University is regionally accredited which would cause an issue if the person was to go out of the region it is in, the degrees may not be accepted.

Analysis

One of the main things all three veterans in the group had in common with scholarly literature was a high suicide rate among veterans due to them not feeling the same sort of “bond” and being “institutionalized” by the military. “We used path analysis to examine factors associated with suicidal/self-harming ideation among male Navy and Marine Corps personnel transitioning to civilian life. Roughly 7% of men (Sailors = 5.3%, Marines = 9.0%) reported ideation during the previous 30 days.” (ALYSSA J. MANSFIELD, 2011)  The nation’s troops will come back from deployments and get out of the military and will not feel connected with the world they were away from for so long.  “Increased psychological symptoms associated with sustained high levels of combat stress have been associated with an increase in suicide and suicidal ideation”. (ALYSSA J. MANSFIELD, 2011)  The resocialization process the military offers does not prepare them for what they face on the outside world.  Having schools be more military and veteran friendly helps give more and more Veterans a “new” purpose in life and helps them connect with other veterans out in the world going to the same school, a lot of the time in the same situation.  “The socialization of apprentice leader demands, for example, a certain degree of behavioral conformity, while encouraging independent judgement and decision-making.”  (Stevens, Sprint 1994)  The military breaks a person down and reshapes them as a new person. They develop a close, almost “brotherly/sisterly”, bond with the people you serve with and finding a bond like that in the civilian world can be very difficult, often leading to suicide in most of our articles.  “Military Academies as Instruments of Value Change talks about how cadet’s values did not change in kindness, social skills or physical development but in an increase in political conservatism and a decrease in commitment to the outside world as a reference group.” (Stevens, Sprint 1994)  Veterans of the military just don’t feel as connected as they would to other non military members of society.  Schools can greatly help reduce those rates by helping reaching out to veterans and offering many different sorts of counseling or even places for them to study and meet other military people that are going through the same thing as well.  Desocialization from the outside world was one of the main “themes” among all scholarly literature readings, even though it is never properly “documented” a lot of our troops come out with minor mental diseases, especially the ones who deployed overseas on combat deployments.  Many of them talk about coming home and not being able to connect with any of the “civilians” even in many different work places.

Schools can help play a major role in this issue with what programs they offer.  The more military friendly their website is the more likely a person getting out of the military will want to go.  “Nowadays young people in resource-poor communities similarly view military service as career-building strategy but their outcomes are very different.” (Julia Rozanova, 2016)  With most people joining the military for career building uses and for most veterans college is already paid for all they must do is enroll why do we still have such high suicide rates? This is where the schools step in (not only just for the money from the GI Bill) but to help socialize vets back into the civilian world by placing them around other vets going through the same experiences.  As well as the ones who made it through college and now want to lend their hand to their fellow brothers and sisters in arms.  “Another possibility is that the stoic military culture encourages young soldiers to ‘tough out’ any emotional issues, or even considers psychiatric symptoms (e.g., hypervigilance) to be positive survival strategies”. (Julia Rozanova, 2016)  Mental health has always been a big issues associated with suicide, schools can help these as well giving a more calm and relaxed environment for veterans of the military that promotes getting help for mental health instead of “toughing it out”.  Suicide is a big problem sweeping the nation and it is the nation’s part and the school’s part to help those who signed up to selflessly give their lives for their country and fellow countryman.

“Military doesn’t only affect the service members but also the kids of the service members with the increase of deployments it takes a toll on the kids as well.  An increase in adolescents sued rate has increased since then.” (Gilreath, et al., 2015)  Kids, young and old, as well as spouses are all affected by military service.  Schools like University of Nebraska OMaha as well as Bellevue University both discusses how military spouse and kid (or dependent) friendly.  Both of the schools websites had separate tabs for military dependents.  “Approximately 24% of military-connected youth reported seriously considering suicide compared to 18.1% of nonmilitary-connected youth.” (Gilreath, et al., 2015)  The suicide rates don’t just stop at military veterans it affects the whole family as well and one of the biggest things in the military is that you are all a family.  Colleges can help reduce these rates as well by offering after school programs for military kids getting them excited about the college experience and to help get their minds of the thoughts of missing their loved ones.  It will help kids find a new purpose in life and get excited about the future cause for most kids they will be eligible for a portion of the GI bill as well.

Conclusion

        During the research, it was concluded that University of Nebraska at Omaha and Bellevue University are more “Vet-Friendly” with Creighton (despite the 34k per year tuition) to be in last place.  University of Nebraska at Omaha and Bellevue University’s websites offered much more information that was easier to access than Creighton.  Although they did each have separate tabs for military veterans, Creighton was severely lacking in information as well as a not so friendly user interface.  There are many things that can be done to further research that was did not completed.  One of the big things was to take a survey of how many military students each of the schools have, and track their graduation, dropout and enrollment rates for military students as well.  This could help gives a better understanding of what school’s military people chose to go to as well as their success and dropout rates as well.  With people in the military coming from all over the United States, and not just Omaha, the United
States needs to expand its research to all colleges in the United States of America to see which schools are the most vet friendly.  As well as for the ones that are not, how can schools be made help make those schools friendlier towards military.  As more schools become “Vet Friendlier” more lives will be saved, more military members will feel like they belong a part of something, and help better their lives to lower the high suicide rate among many of Military.  With the benefits and discipline that Veterans of the military bring with them schools should be advertising more towards Veterans not only to help the school but to help those who signed up to give their lives for us and our freedoms.

Bibliography

ALYSSA J. MANSFIELD, P. R. (2011). Suicidal or Self-Harming Ideation in Military Personnel Transitioning to Civilian Life. In Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior (pp. 392-405). The AMerican Association of Suicidology.

Gilreath, T. D., Wrabel, S. L., Sullivan, K. S., Capp, G. P., Roziner, I., Benbenishty, R., & Astor, R. A. (2015). Suicidality among military-connected adolescents in California schools. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

Julia Rozanova, P. N.-R. (2016, September). “I’m Coming Home, Tell the World I’m Coming Home”. The Long Homecoming and Mental Health Treatment of Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans. Psychiatric Quarterly, pp. 427-443.

Stevens, R. (Sprint 1994). Military Academies as Instruments of Value Change. Armed Forces and Society, pg.473-490.

Creighton1.png

Creighton does have the veteran smiling but not very much information on the school’s website they want you to submit your email and information and wait for them to contact you.

Bellevue1.pngBellevue on the other hand does show the American flag has several awards they won for being military friendly and have tabs to many other options to learn more about the school to the side.  It is very simple and easy to understand.

UNO1.png

UNO does display pictures of 2 members of the army offers information about how to get started as a military vet and how to help apply for your GI benefits as well as financial aid.  As you scrolled down  you also say the list of awards from them being in the top schools that are “military friendly”.