AUSTIN (KXAN) —The University of Texas at Austin is Texas’s best higher education institution for veterans, according to a ranking released by the U.S. & World News Report Monday. The ranking follows a Sept. 23 recognition of the university by the Texas Veterans Commission, commending UT Austin on its educational services to veterans.
On a national level, UT Austin came in at No. 10 among all public universities for its veteran resources, and No. 16 among all private and public universities. Currently, more than 475 veterans are enrolled in UT programs, per a university news release.
Approximately 1.4 million Texans classify as veterans, according to estimates from the 2019 American Community Survey.
Approximately 1,300 students are either spouses or children of current or former military members, per the release.
“Providing world-class teaching and mentoring resources to veterans is a top priority and point of pride at The University of Texas,” UT Austin President Jay Hartzell said in the release. “Both of these recognitions underscore our continued commitment to supporting our student veterans and their families.”
UT Austin’s Institute for Military and Veteran Family Wellness specializes in care access and services for veterans transitioning back to civilian life and beginning a post-military career education path. The institute’s programming includes spousal support networks, peer support groups and transition resources for veteran families.
As veterans begin this next chapter of their life, they can encounter unforeseen challenges while adjusting, said Elisa Borah, research associate professor and director for the Institute for Military and Veteran Family Wellness. She said the most successful transitions take on a multifaceted approach, from adjusting to higher learning environments to connecting with Veterans Affairs resources.
“They’re leaving a culture and a type of career that they’ve been in for sometimes a long period of time, that is very different than civilian culture and civilian life,” she said. “The jobs don’t always translate to civilian sector jobs, and the lifestyle as well, it’s very different.”
While UT’s veteran student population has evolved over the years, Borah said the university’s veteran enrollments are increasing. As more veterans call UT Austin home, she said the university is working on expanding its veteran family transition program to better accommodate their needs.
UT is also working toward a pilot peer support program for active duty spouses at Fort Hood, to better help them prepare for eventual pivots back into civilian life with their partners.
Matt Newland, a senior at UT Austin and a five-year veteran of the Marine Corps., said he’s noticed parallels between his former career and current academic path. Studying government while minoring in Russian, he said he’s gotten a behind-the-scenes look at some of the nuances and thought processes behind intelligence strategies he previously used to work under.
“I was an intelligence specialist, so I got to be around that type of community and that type of thinking. And it is very interesting, and I think that’s what led me to study government is there are so many parallels and it is fun,” he said. “To have gone from being, what I would say is like ‘the the pointy end of foreign policy’ to now backtracking and learning ‘okay, what exactly what we’re trying to accomplish in that scenario?’ And so that’s just been fascinating.”
With around 500 veteran students on a campus with an undergraduate population of more than 40,000, Newland said he is often the only veteran in his classes. That has provided an opportunity to dispel any misnomers surrounding veterans, as well as highlighting what they bring to the table.
For some, there’s an assumption that veterans always think inside the box and are strictly procedural, he said. From his experience, Newland said a lot of creativity and free thinking was incorporated into his experience in the Marine Corps., similar skillsets he now looks to translate into his degree.
When veterans are supported with the necessary resources, they can thrive in their new environments as they transition back to civilian life, he said.
“If we do transition our veterans properly, they can really become very productive members of their community, and they have so so many good things to bring to their communities,” he said. “Valuable experiences and skill sets that that really need to be brought forth.”