Maryland Higher Education Leaders Sign Agreement to Make Veteran Services a Priority
Citing controversial essay and suspension as impetus, Lt. Governor Brown brings public colleges and universities together to improve veteran services
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (January 31, 2011) –Presidents from 21 community colleges and public four-year institutions gathered in Annapolis today to sign a formal agreement to improve on-campus services for veteran students. Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown – a Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, a graduate of ROTC and the nation’s highest-ranking elected official to serve a tour of duty in Iraq – convened the meeting and worked closely with veteran advocates and higher education leaders to forge the important partnerships that will ease student veterans’ transition to campus life. Nearly 15,000 Maryland veterans received GI Bill education benefits during the fall 2010 semester.
During his opening remarks, Brown cited a troubling essay published in the student newspaper at Community College of Baltimore County detailing a student veteran’s war experience and the College’s controversial, but necessary, decision to remove the student until a psychological evaluation could be performed as one of several catalysts to create the Maryland Campus Compact for Student Veterans.
“Veterans bring a unique maturity and life experience to the classroom – an experience that in most cases enhances classroom discussions and benefits every student’s learning. But as each war is different, so is every generation of veteran,” said Lt. Governor Brown. “We have an obligation to serve those who served and we must do more to ease student veterans’ transitions from combat to campus. While the urgency to sign this agreement was sparked by the atypical and unfortunate incident at CCBC, I am proud that higher education leaders from across the state will work together to improve the services we provide to the men and women who served on our behalf.”
“I am proud to join my colleagues in signing this agreement,” said CCBC President Sandra Kurtinitis. “The unfortunate incident from last fall has clouded CCBC’s firm commitment to and acknowledged reputation for serving those who serve. By signing onto the Maryland Veterans Compact, I am committing CCBC to not only continue our veteran friendly tradition, but also to strengthen our services and outreach in support of our student veterans.”
The Compact calls on Maryland’s higher education community to do more for the men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces and seeks to ensure the educational success of veterans who choose to return to a Maryland school through greater awareness and understanding of the unique challenges student veterans face.
Participating institutions pledge to designate an office or staff person as a ‘go to’ for all student veterans to help them navigate everything from GI Bill paperwork to behavioral health counseling. The Compact requires campus officials to provide training for faculty, staff and student leadership to promote greater awareness of veteran issues; and it encourages campuses to create student veteran organizations to provide incoming veteran students with necessary support from their peers who are also transitioning back into our communities.
“The University System of Maryland embraces this opportunity to support our veterans by making their transition to college learning as smooth as possible. The Campus Compact embodies the USM’s emphasis on greater access to higher education and serves as a very fitting way to honor our veterans,” said Maryland University System Chancellor William E. Kirwan.
Today’s veterans face unique challenges. Studies show that one out of every five veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are also more likely than veterans of any previous conflict to attempt suicide. More than 22,000 Iraq-Afghanistan veterans have returned to Maryland in recent years, and thousands more are coming home. As more veterans enroll in college and training courses, colleges and universities – especially community colleges – must make concerted efforts to better understand the behavioral health challenges many veterans face.
The O’Malley-Brown administration has fought hard to protect and expand veteran services. In 2008, Lt. Governor Brown led efforts to pass the Veterans Behavioral Health Act and chairs the Veterans Behavioral Health Advisory Board. This legislation provided veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with expanded access to behavioral and mental health services to ease the transition from combat to the community. In 2009, the Maryland General Assembly partnered with Brown to expand this program to all veterans. Brown also championed efforts to protect veteran scholarship and veteran business loan programs. In 2010, Brown launched the Warrior to Worker program and the Helmets2Hardhats initiative to help connect veterans with employment opportunities.
In anticipation of today’s event, Lt. Governor Brown and CCBC President Sandra Kurtinitis published an op-ed in today’s Baltimore Sun examining the unique challenges today’s veterans face when they return from combat.