Penn State's veteran students eligible for priority registration for spring 2014

June 10, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Veterans who have been honorably discharged from all branches of the U.S. military will be eligible to sign up for priority registration for Penn State classes beginning this September for Spring Semester 2014. Once the system is in place, qualifying students need only fill out and return a form to receive priority registration.

About 3,500 veteran and active-duty military students are using their G.I. Bill benefits to earn degrees at Penn State, according to the University's Office of Veterans Programs (OVP). As more troops return from Iraq and Afghanistan, enrollment is likely to increase. The University's actions foreshadow the possible passage of legislation on the issue.

“We certainly have a deep interest in assisting veterans in accomplishing their educational goals," said Penn State President Rodney Erickson. “They definitely deserve our gratitude, praise and admiration. On a more practical note, our veteran students are tied to a set timeframe for degree completion, so this action provides them with the opportunity they need to gain an education."

In March, Penn State’s University Faculty Senate approved the addition of veterans to the categories of students who receive priority registration. The idea originated with faculty members Peter Capelotti and James Ulinski at Penn State Abington. Both were instrumental in implementing priority registration for veterans on that campus within this past year.

Once the need was recognized, according to Allen Kimel, faculty senator and assistant professor of materials science and engineering, there was no question that it should be addressed University wide.

“On the G.I. Bill, students who are veterans have a certain amount of money, a certain way they can use it, and a certain amount of time in which to use it,” Kimel said. “The concern was that they wouldn’t be able to finish up in the eight semesters allotted by the bill, because many courses fill up quickly. Also, some veterans are still in the reserves, so they need some flexibility with classes and with these requirements. Priority registration will help address these issues.”

Brian Clark, veterans office director, noted that the timing of Penn State’s new policy is fortuitous. Legislation introduced by state Rep. Thomas Murt, (R-Montgomery County), which recently passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, will require all institutions of higher education in the Commonwealth to provide priority registration to veterans. Penn State's Office of Governmental Affairs has been working with Murt to ensure that the University's policy complies with the proposed legislation.

“I commend Penn State for its leadership on this important issue,” said Rep. Murt. “Our veterans have sacrificed and earned an important higher education benefit, and it is fitting that our institutions of higher education do everything they can to ensure the success of our veteran students. Penn State’s policy and my legislation will go a long way toward helping veterans achieve their educational goals.”

Murt is a veteran, having served in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1990 to 2008. He was called to active duty in 2003 and served in Iraq. For his service in Iraq, he received the Army Commendation Medal. In 2008, he retired as a staff sergeant from the Army Reserve.

OVP Director Clark noted that the University's challenge is to now get word out to veterans that priority registration is available at Penn State, because currently the University does not know if a particular student is a veteran unless that student volunteers the information.

University Registrar Karen Schultz said that “even if veterans self-identify, the current student records system does not track veterans. However, since March, we have been working on a modification to the system that should be completely in place by registration for spring 2014 classes.”

To start the process, qualified students must fill out a form and submit it along with a copy of their DD-214.  The form and instructions will be available within the next two weeks on the OVP website, and also may be obtained from the veterans certifying officials at each campus. Once the information is entered into the system by the OVP, qualified students automatically gain early scheduling access, said Schultz.

Currently there are several categories of students at Penn State who are eligible for priority registration. These categories include students with disabilities, students in the Schreyer Honors College and student athletes. The rationale for extending priority registration varies depending on the group, according to University officials. For instance, student athletes may face restrictions on when they can schedule classes due to the team practice times.

"In the case of veterans, who can receive tuition assistance only for a limited number of semesters, we want to ensure that they can register for the classes they need to make appropriate and timely academic progress toward their degrees,” Erickson said.

Penn State’s Office of Veterans Programs offers benefits certification, general counseling, advocacy and outreach assistance to University Park and World Campus student veterans. Each Penn State campus also has certifying officials to handle the reporting and monitoring process used to obtain federal educational benefits, as well as adult student counselors who work with student veterans to provide assistance and information.

The University has been recognized as a military-friendly school by G.I. Jobs, Military Advanced Education and Military Times.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 16, 2013