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Katie Shepherd: UC should make exceptions to admissions rules for veterans

By Katie Shepherd

Oct. 29, 2013 12:17 a.m.

There are a lot of things I never got used to growing up in a military family.

One of the only aspects of military life that I did learn to expect was its uncertainty: uncertainty in where I would be living in a year, uncertainty in when my father would be returning from overseas, uncertainty in whether I would graduate from the same high school where I started as a freshman.

The men and women who serve our country feel these anxieties even more poignantly. The unpredictable nature of military orders becomes a normal, if uncomfortable, part of life for service members and their families.

It is exactly because of the instability that surrounds these individuals’ lives that UCLA must better accommodate veterans seeking entry to a UC campus.

As the UC’s admissions policy currently stands, applications for freshman and transfer students are only accepted during a one-month period almost a full year before the admitted class will begin its first quarter.

The UCLA Office of Undergraduate Admissions, although bound to the UC admissions policy, can make exceptions to these rules and should do so to accommodate difficulties specific to student veterans, such as last-minute changes in military orders.

While more flexible policies at the campus level would go a long way, the UC Academic Senate and the UC Board of Regents, the two groups charged with setting admissions policies for the UC system, should revise the systemwide policy as well to accept spring applications from all military veterans hoping to study at a UC campus.

This isn’t to say that UCLA has not made efforts to accommodate former service members. UCLA holds a space on the “2013 Guide to Military Friendly Schools,” compiled by Victory Media Inc., a veteran-owned business that creates the list to commend the top 15 percent of schools in the U.S. for their ability to support the recruitment and retention of veteran students.

Just last year, Chancellor Gene Block reiterated the importance of the veteran student population on campus when he presented his UCLA Veterans Initiative, which expanded on the UCLA veteran website and organized veteran-related events throughout the year.

Although resources have been expanded for those veterans already on campus, more can be done to hold open the doors for those veterans hoping to find their way into the classroom.

Angel Garcia, a fifth-year neuroscience student, attended school through a program that allowed him to take classes while on active duty in the Marine Corps, but the availability of classes depended on whether the base he was stationed at had a college. For this reason, Garcia finished his transfer requirements months later than he intended.

Garcia then waited for six months with nothing to do but work at a Best Buy after completing his transfer requirements because of the non-traditional structure of his community college education.

Garcia’s story is not uncommon in the veteran community.

The obstacles facing student veterans aren’t exclusively caused by unpredictable deployment schedules or orders, but also by the specific demographic composition of the group. According to Student Veterans of America, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for the needs of military veterans in higher education, 47 percent of student veterans have already started their own families by the time they enroll in college.

The UC’s application process, like most universities, is largely tailored to high school students and community college students already working within and accustomed to the cycle of the academic year.

UC Office of the President spokeswoman Dianne Klein told the Daily Bruin that one reason the UC does not accept spring applications is because the number of students who apply in this period would overwhelm admissions staff. But the total number of veterans and active duty students enrolled at UCLA amounts to just over 300 individuals. Surely the UC could expand or reshuffle its operations to better aid such a specific and small population of prospective students.

Klein also told the Daily Bruin that if the University accepted late applications from military veterans, it would be difficult to draw the line for other groups of students.

But veterans should be understood as a group apart from others. Accepting veterans in the spring is not giving one group priority over others. Instead, it would recognize that these individuals voluntarily make sacrifices on our behalf, and that it is incumbent on us to do our best to repay this debt by actively seeking ways to ease their transition from the military to civilian life.

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