Jamie Schramm’s son and father-in-law served in the United States Marine Corps, so he understands the value of what veterans bring to civilian life after their time in the military is over. As an educator, he sees daily what they bring to college campuses across the country.
“Military veterans have that mindset that they want to serve, they want to help,” says Schramm, the campus executive officer for the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s satellite campuses in Sheboygan and Manitowoc. “And sometimes they have to be OK with us helping them, because they are in a new world for them.
“I find them very hard working, and they want to succeed, and this is another mission to them: Getting a college degree.”
The G.I. Bill, established in 1944, offers service members an opportunity for veterans to pursue higher education. According to a 2021 report, 650,000 veterans used military benefits for higher education. The study by The Postsecondary National Policy Institute showed that 75 percent of the student veterans enrolled as full-time students.
While the study shows that veterans are taking advantage of the benefits, they’re not always finding the move to higher education is a smooth transition. Finding a school that fits what a veteran wants to study and provides the proper infrastructure to help them with the process is essential for veterans to get the most out of their higher education.
“When they were in the military, there was a lot of certainty,” Schramm said. “They knew what they were going to do when they got up at 6 in the morning and knew when they went to bed at night. And now they’re in this different world where they need to ask a lot of questions.”
Schramm recently attended a U.S. Marine Corp. educator’s workshop where he was one of 45 educators from across the country with the goal of helping veterans obtain their academic goals. At the top of Schramm’s list of priorities for veterans is to find a school that has a veterans service coordinator whose sole mission is to help veterans through the process.
“They need somebody embedded in the student affairs area, who is academically advising the class selection, the financial aid areas, and someone who really understands our veterans’ backgrounds and what their military service might mean,” he said.
Veterans also need to consider the benefits campuses can offer, such as whether the college or university is considered veteran-friendly. Schramm points out that some of these designations are as simple as paying a fee, but others require meeting a set of criteria to earn the designation. Beyond the school’s designations, on-campus support extends to the kinds of groups on campus that are designed to provide support.
“Do they have a space like a veterans’ lounge where veterans can create a community?” Schramm said. “There’s the discipline of the military, and the whole training of the military, so it’s important that they can be around people that sound and feel a little bit like them.”
Perhaps the most important aspect of the process is choosing an educational path to take. This is where a coordinator can help steer veterans toward an academic path based on their experiences in the military and what field of study they want to pursue.
“Make sure there’s something at the college you want to study,” he said. “Don’t settle. Don’t say, ‘It’s close enough. Go after something you really want. Someone who has great military training can sometimes get credits for some of the time and training they received in the military.”
Schools will also often provide educational opportunities or training for spouses, another consideration for selecting a school.
During his career in education in Wisconsin, Schramm has found that veterans often emerge as leaders in the business field. He feels a strong responsibility to help those who have volunteered to serve their country.
“If we can help them break down the barriers and create some communities in the veteran community and introduce them to the rest of the campus world, I think that can go a long way.”