By Nicholas Schleh, Staff Writer
The funding for the Veterans Upward Bound (VUB) program at USM is in jeopardy, said Laurie Davis, executive director of TRIO programs, which includes VUB.
The VUB program receives a federal grant to fund their services, and was set to continue for the next four years. Four weeks into the semester and the state of their funding remains unknown, Davis said.
Over 300 students, or around one-third of student veterans within the University of Maine System (UMS) attend USM, Lorraine Spaulding, Coordinator of Veterans Services (VS) said. With the VS and the VUB program, student veterans at USM have a wide variety of services available to them.
The VUB is one of the four branches that makes up the federal secondary education program, TRIO. The program provides a college advising service for veterans, ensuring that their goals of receiving secondary education become a reality. This fall semester they helped get over 60 veterans into classrooms.
During the first week of September Davis said that she sent in the statistics of their program and their estimated growth to the federal government. However the federal funding they receive has a requirement for their rate of growth. Davis is unsure if they have met those expectations or not.
“President Cummings has appealed to our congressional delegation for help in ensuring the grant continues,” said Davis.
Davis said that they remain hopeful that they will continue to receive funding, the program is “continuing to support veterans currently enrolled as well as reaching out to additional veterans who can benefit from this important program,” she said.
If the VUB program were to shut down it cause more budgetary restraints on USM and it is unclear who take on the role for advising veterans. If another entity was to take on the role, it would still lead to a funding issue.
Outside of VUB, Veterans Services also serves to help student veterans throughout their college career. They provides many forms of aid to veterans, individuals who are currently serving and their families, with the belief that being a veteran warrants forms of assistance.
“We provide a comprehensive service,” Spaulding said. The VS is a point of contact for veterans when they begin acclimating back into society. “We make contact and maintain a relationship,” she added.
Spaulding and Camden Ege, the Assistant Veterans Services Coordinator, said jokingly that they are almost shadow advisors, helping veterans receive their benefits from the immensely complicated GI Bill. They both try to ensure that veterans will receive financial assistance in regard to tuition and fees, and a monthly stipend of $2,015 which helps with housing, food and other necessities Spaulding said.
Veterans will come to them in various stages of their lives in need of assistance. VS provide more than just support for maneuvering within the GI bill, but also counseling and a welcoming invitation into the community, connecting them with other veterans and folks with similar interests.
The VS here at USM is the only Veteran Services department within UMS led by two full time Veteran Services personnel. This results in a much more comprehensive approach in aiding veterans with their academic and personal goals.
In 2016, USM was named one of the top 25 military friendly public universities in the country, with over 400 GI Bill recipients enrolled last year at USM, making it the most of any university in the state.
More information on VS at USM can be found on the USM website or by contacting Spaulding at [email protected] A Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sergeant Ryan Pitts is speaking on Nov. 8 in the Abromson Community Center, where he will discuss the values he has taken from the battlefield into civilian life.