LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Governor John Bell Edwards and the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs announced plans to have veterans centers on every college campus in Louisiana by the Fall 2019 semester. This would make Louisiana the second state in the U.S. to do so.
There are currently 8,300 veterans enrolled in colleges across the state. McNeese State University Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Chris Thomas says veterans make up around 3.5 percent of students at MSU.
“The percentage of our veterans coming back that need to retool themselves and to complete their college degree," Thomas said. "I think we have a real opportunity to serve those men and women and to put them in a position for success and that’s what this position is about.”
SOWELA Technical College opened their Veterans Success Center in 2014. Darlene Hoffpauir, Sowela’s Marketing & Communications Manager, says the center offers access to tutoring services, priority registration, a private computer lab, and support while transitioning from military to college for veterans and military service members.
At McNeese, Thomas says a resource officer for veterans can be found in the Registrar’s Office and they are in the process of finding a location for their veterans resource center.
“I think we have an opportunity with this particular person to take all these different areas of expertise and have a front door place for our veterans to come back. And so, if they need the assistance, if they have a question; they have a person with whom they can speak, someone to help them use their G.I. Benefits, to help them with their articulation agreements with other institutions. Many of our veterans start college at various places in their time in the service and so, we would love to be able to help them be graduates from McNeese,” Thomas said.
The program for the veterans centers is called the LaVetCorps, and will cost about $520,000 per year.
State officials said federal grants are expected to take care of $320,000 and the Department of Veterans Affairs about $200,000, including in-kind contributions and $2,500 site fees paid by campuses.