For the second year in a row, The University of Texas-Pan American has been named a Military Friendly School by G.I. Jobs magazine.
Each year, G.I. Jobs compiles a list of higher education institutions that have programs and other services available to help service members transition into college and graduate.
UTPA made the magazine's 2013 Military Friendly Schools list, which includes more than 1,700 institutions of higher education that are the most friendly to students currently serving in or just getting out of the military. These schools were picked out of more than 12,000 schools approved by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for education benefits.
Noel Ysasi, the former manager of UTPA's Veterans Services Center who is now a lecturer in the Department of Rehabilitation in the College of Health Sciences and Human Services, said being included in the list again shows the commitment the University has toward its veteran students.
"It tells me that our institution really, truly cares about our veterans, and so for us (to be on the list) for the second year in a row and go from the top 20 percent rating to the top 15 percent says that we've surpassed so many institutions here within such a short time," Ysasi said. "That tells me we're doing something right."
UTPA opened its veterans center in the 2009-2010 school year to better assist military service members returning to school.
The Veterans Services Center certifies veteran students so they can attend school, advocates for services veterans require, provides counseling specifically for veterans, and promotes student involvement and excellence through the UTPA Veteran Student Organization and National Honor Society, as well as providing other necessities veterans need. There is also a memorial garden on campus that has been dedicated to veterans.
Having the center and garden has helped veteran students transition from the military to higher education because they feel recognized by the University and feel there is a place that allows them to connect with other veterans and realize they're not alone, Ysasi said.
"When (veterans) come out of the military, a lot of times we feel very isolated, we don't know who to talk to ... so when you go to a Veterans Service Center, a center like ours, you have work studies who are veterans, they're actually hired to work by the VA, and these veterans are able to speak with another veteran, it makes the transition so much easier," he said. "It means a lot to me, being a veteran, knowing that there is someone out there advocating for us, that someone looks at us and says we care about what you've done."
There are about 900 veteran students enrolled at UTPA currently, and the University expects a 30-40 percent enrollment increase in veteran students for the following school year, Ysasi said.
Ysasi received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the VA for his work in developing the center.
This is the fourth year that Victory Media, which publishes G.I. Jobs, has released the list, which assessed schools in nine areas: military support on campus, academic credibility, percent of military students, academic credit for military service, flexibility for military students, veteran graduation rates, government approvals, student tuition assistance, and student survey and employment rates and military spouse policies.