Military veterans will be able to navigate the higher ed system and attain their degrees more easily after Monday’s announcement that the Northeast Florida Military Veteran College Network is up and running, leveraging the resources and personnel of the region’s colleges and universities in an unprecedented collaboration.
The network provides information to military students through an innovative website, decreases barriers to veterans getting their college degrees, shares best practices and seeks innovative initiatives to enhance the military student experience, organizers said at a media event at Jacksonville University. It also takes advantage of the leadership skills, life experience and maturity that the area’s nearly 200,000 veterans and active-duty personnel can potentially bring to the campus environment.
“It is such an honor and a pleasure to be a part of this,” said Tim Cost, president of Jacksonville University, whose leadership including Brigadier General (Ret) Michael Fleming, Chief Government, Military & Community Relations Officer, envisioned the network. “We started the conversations more than a year ago about how we could do more things together. We are pleased to be doing something that is one of the first initiatives of its kind in the nation … and JU is entirely committed to being one of the most military-friendly campuses in America.”
The network, which already won an award at the 2015 Jacksonville Business Journal’s Innovation in Education Awards, was announced to kick off the City of Jacksonville’s Week of Valor. It is a new part of the region’s “higher earning through higher learning” EarnUp initiative, which is led by Jacksonville area college presidents and JAXUSA Partnership to increase the college attainment rate to 60 percent for Northeast Florida by 2025.
Speakers at Monday’s announcement included JU President Tim Cost, JAXUSA Partnership Senior Vice President Aaron Bowman, University of North Florida President John Delaney, Edward Waters College President Nat Glover, Florida State College at Jacksonville Provost Dr. Ian Neuhard, and Jacksonville Director of Public Affairs Bill Spann (representing Mayor Lenny Curry).
Using JAXUSA Partnership’s EarnUp website, the NFMVCN web page at http://earnup.org/veteran-service-resources includes a university/college section, veteran’s program summary, transition to college section, benefits and GI Bill FAQ, plus other sections.
Other goals of the network include assisting Northeast Florida universities and colleges that need additional expertise regarding veterans’ issues, and implementing a university and college orientation program for local military installations.
Committees have also been set up to review how military, civilian and life experience are assessed; enhance consistency and streamline procedures within network schools; develop initiatives to educate university/college faculty and staff on the military; and create a marketing plan to publicize the network to faculty, staff, veterans, active-duty members, military families and employers.
“We are very fortunate in Northeast Florida to have a military community that is every supportive and interlocked; however, we did not have a focal point for collaboration when it came to military education,” said Fleming. “This will better publicize what each university is doing and act as a one-stop shop for military members looking to get an education. It’s more evidence that our community will continue to see new and innovative ways emerge to help the military.”
Members of the College Network include Jacksonville University; Edward Waters College; Florida State College at Jacksonville; St. Johns River State College; the University of North Florida; Navy Region Southeast; Naval Station Mayport; Naval Air Station Jacksonville; Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay; Florida National Guard; Coast Guard; Marine Corps Blount Island Command; the City of Jacksonville; Wounded Warrior Project; and Duval, Nassau, Clay, and St. Johns County Veteran Service Officers.
Northeast Florida’s military community of veterans, active-duty service members, defense contractors and government civilians provides an annual economic impact of $12 to $14 billion a year, and Jacksonville would not be the city it is without it, said JAXUSA Partnership’s Aaron Bowman.
“When you think about the power of these organizations individually, and the number of people they help in advancing education every day, and then leverage them all together, it’s unbelievable,” he said. “The power of the cooperation of these leaders will help some of the most deserving men and women become better citizens, earn more money and enhance their educations.”
For more information and to use the resources of the Northeast Florida Military Veteran College Network, visit http://earnup.org/veteran-service-resources.