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Veterans now have the opportunities and tools to achieve a higher-education degree at East Central University, thanks to a $1.1 million ($220,000 per year) Veterans Student Support Services Grant through the U.S. Department of Education.

The TRIO grant, set up for an initial five-year run, led to the establishment of the Veterans Student Support Services Office on campus, Sept. 1. Jill Williamson is the interim director and Clint Fisher is the program coordinator.

This announcement comes along with the news that ECU saw its Student Support Services Grant renewed for the next five years at 1.1 million or ($220,000 a year). This grant is typically geared toward first-generation students, those with disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds and those with disabilities.

TRIO refers to a number (originally three, now eight) of U.S. federal programs to increase access to higher education for economically disadvantaged students.

According to Williamson, the program is designed to increase retention and graduation rates of ECU veterans, along with improving financial and economic literacy of ECU veterans in areas such as personal income, household money management, financial planning skills and basic economic decision making.

“We will attempt to foster an institutional climate supportive of the success of students who are limited English proficient, students from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in postsecondary education, individuals with disabilities, homeless children and youth, foster-care youth or other disconnected students,” said Williamson.

A wide range of support services will be provided to veterans including academic tutoring, advice and assistance in postsecondary course selection, information on federal student aid programs and resources for locating public and private scholarships.

Additionally, assistance will be provided in completing FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs education benefits applications. Also provided are activities designed to assist participants in applying for admission to and obtaining financial assistance for graduate and professional programs, along with priority enrollment.

 “Our veterans are valuable to our campus, not only because of their bravery and service to our country, but because of the possibilities they bring to the workforce through a higher education degree,” said Dr. Jerry Forbes, ECU vice president for student development. “We are pleased with this grant and excited about how this can be a supportive and productive program toward veterans achieving their academic goals.”

ECU was one of only seven higher learning institutions from across the country and one of only two in the state of Oklahoma to receive this funding for veteran students.

As for the Student Support Services Grant, a wide range of help is being provided by the Student Support Services Office, according to director Dannie Patton.

“What makes this great is that, for example in the early classes, it will help these students get through that semester for help maybe with a math or algebra class,” said Patton.

There will approximately be five tutors available in the office and at least one or two at all times during business hours. Additionally, there is an online program which helps the student with test-taking strategies and financial literacy, which helps them to set up a budget.

The Student Support Services Office is currently located in room 109 of the McBride Gym Building, next door to Veterans Student Support Services Office.



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