What could you do with $500,000?
Some schools across the country may soon be able to put that much cash toward building or improving student veterans centers on their campuses if a new bipartisan bill, introduced in the House of Representatives Monday, becomes law.
“The brave men and women who sacrifice so much for our freedom deserve opportunities to succeed when they reenter civilian life,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., said in a statement. “Veteran Student Centers will give student veterans the support they need on their path to a new career.”
The Veterans Education Empowerment Act seeks to re-establish an Education Department grant program providing up to $500,000 to schools over a four-year period. The program was initially established in 2010, resulting in 28 student veteran centers on college campuses across the country before it ended in 2015. On average, the schools received $350,000 each, according to information provided by the congresswoman’s office.
“It’s definitely something we strongly stand behind in terms of the value,” John Kamin, an American Legion official, said of the legislation. “I think too often veterans approach school as the new mission and objective to conquer, and when you enter with that mentality, you may lose sight of the fact that college can be a much greater experience when you’re a part of a community and that you don’t need to do it alone. I’ve always viewed vet centers as the natural extension of that premise.”
The bill defines a vet center as a dedicated space on campus that provides military-affiliated students and their families with a lounge or meeting space and a centralized office for support services, including help with veteran education benefits and academics.
The number of schools that could receive the grant would be determined by the total funding for the program, and the Education Department would have the authority to determine the criteria for grant eligibility. In general, however, schools would need to have a significant veteran population and a plan for continuing the center after the grant funds have been spent, according to Frankel’s office.
“Easy access to the services and benefits that can help you succeed on campus are key factors into general success on campus and certainly to make sure you have a propensity to stay in school,” said Lauren Augustine, vice president of government affairs for Student Veterans of America.
And so are peer networks, which are facilitated by vet centers, she said.
“We’re excited to see Congress continue to want to support that,” Augustine said.