New plan invites student veterans to UNC campuses

By Trevor Metcalfe – Editor-in-Chieftemetcal@unca.edu

The new strategic plan could improve awareness of student veterans and attract them to UNC schools, according to UNCA students, veterans and staff.

“Having a streamlined program for veterans is really going to foster a type of community among the veterans,” said Kevin Rumley, a UNCA senior and Iraq War veteran.

The plan, developed by a coalition of school administrators, business leaders and professors, attempts to revamp the UNC system for a new generation of students. The plan offers solutions to cater education to a changing student body, made up of older students, veterans and transfers from community colleges.

Lothar Dohse, a UNCA math professor and representative for the UNC faculty assembly, said communicating the needs of a school to the legislature represents a major hurdle in the planning process.

“Our (the faculty) big concern is that the leadership is being siphoned off into another group that doesn’t know what they’re doing,” Dohse said.

For veterans, the plan proposes a $3 million initiative to grant early residency tuition status to veterans who plan to eventually move in-state. Rumley said the tuition drop could help more veterans afford to attend school in the system, using their G.I. Bill stipend.

“It’s incentives for veterans to do it, because it’s in-state tuition,” Rumley said.

Additionally, the plan suggests streamlining and building the support network across campuses for veterans, including streamlining admissions processes, creating a new website for student-veterans and starting advising centers at Fort Bragg and Camp Lejune.

After serving in Iraq in 2004, an improvised explosive device severely injured Rumley on the Syrian border, requiring 23 major surgeries at Walter Reed Hospital and more than 18 months of rehabilitation.

“They told me that I would lose my legs, and I wouldn’t walk again, but I’m walking and did lots of rehab,” Rumley said.

After completing rehab, Rumley decided to enroll at UNCA, where his brother was attending school. The 1944 G.I. Bill, and its many revisions, gives veterans the means to look for work and attend school through set monthly stipends.

Rumley said he used his dividends to attend UNCA.

“My brother was actually going to UNCA,” Rumley said. “He was graduating, and I came to visit him and it was a fantastic school.”

Rumley said he had to work through the lack of a veteran support system at UNCA by seeking out helpful individuals.

“There wasn’t an amazing system in place yet for veterans when I started in the fall of 2007, but I found that a key to me was finding incredibly helpful people that would help me find solutions.”

Amanda Deweese, veterans services representative for UNCA admissions and Rumley’s caretaker, said she acts as a liaison between the school and the VA.

“My role here is that I help them with G.I. Bill benefits,” Deweese said.

Rumley said Deweese helped him set up contacts with the VA.

“She got me in contact with the people I needed to at the VA, who were not reaching out to me, so she took the lead,” Rumley said.

Rumley is also a member of UNCA’s Veterans’ Alliance.

“Their mission is to create sensitivity and awareness among students, faculty and staff about the presence of veterans and the potential for PTSD,” Rumley said.

Rumley said he also plans to work as an alumni with veterans entering the UNC school system. Creating a sense of support for veterans on each campus is key to attracting more to the system, he said.

“If you don’t have to pay out-of-state tuition, then you’re more likely to go, but you’re more likely to go if you know it’s a campus that supports veterans,” Rumley said.

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