Governor Tom Corbett signed into law Act 46 on May 14, 2014. The Higher Education Course Scheduling Preference for Veteran Students requires public institutions of higher education in Pennsylvania to provide veteran students with course scheduling preference.
Slippery Rock University has broadened the definition of “veteran student” to include; any student who has served in the U.S. Armed forces, including a reserve component and National Guard, and was discharged or released from such service under conditions other than dishonorable, and any student currently serving in any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, including a reserve component and National Guard.
“We found it was going to be administratively limiting and difficult to just determine who veterans were,” Eliott Baker, Executive Director of Academic Records, Summer School, and Graduate Studies said. “So because we are giving benefits to the service men and woman, we have broadened that definition.”
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs expects the number of student veterans to increase radically over the next few years due to drawdowns of missions of Iraq and Afghanistan. On Oct. 6, President Norton signed the agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) declaring to give veterans scheduling preference. Public institutions had no later than Nov. 10 to implement a policy for veteran scheduling.
Across the nation, 800,000 to 900,000 veterans are attending institutions of higher education and more than 300,000 military students have enrolled, according to the PDE. Preferential registration was given to 160 student veterans at SRU, Baker said.
“All we did was create a brand new time slot at noon on that first day of scheduling for the undergraduate veterans,” Baker said. “Nobody else was affected, and we will continue to schedule the same way we have in the past from seniors down to those freshman.”
By granting veteran students scheduling preference, the PDE says students will have a better chance of enrolling in a full course load and maximizing their education benefits before they expire. An active serviceman or reservist might have obligations to our country and planning their schedule around those obligations is important. Scheduling preference is another way to recognize the men and women who served our country proudly and put themselves in harm’s way to protect our freedoms and further the direction our country is heading, Baker said.
“We certainly support the actions of the legislator in terms of recognizing these individuals service to our country,” Baker said. “If the state of PA believes that one small token we can give these men and women for serving our country is to allow them to register a couple of days or hours earlier without truly impacting the rest of the student body to any great extent, then we are proud to do just that.”