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Regents want to better serve UW students who served our country

By Jenna Troum, jtroum@wkbt.com
Published On: Nov 11 2012 04:14:42 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 11 2012 06:48:17 PM CST
LA CROSSE, Wis. -

A little rain couldn't stop about University of Wisconsin-La Crosse student veterans' 24-hour tribute run this Veterans Day.

While they run around the track, the UW Board of Regents wants to make sure they're not running in circles when it comes to accessing their state and federal benefits.

"To help them access those benefits, make sure they get them to the max, is probably the number one thing that we hear from them," said UW Board of Regents president Brent Smith.

This past week, the board met to take a closer look at how they can better serve the students who have served our country.

The UW system has seen a steady increase in its number of student veterans since 2005. Right now, there are between 4,000 and 5,000 vets on UW campuses around the state.

It's not just the Board of Regents with the veterans' best interests in mind.

UW-L Student Veterans Association president Spencer Niebur said the school's Veterans Resource Center allows vets to get all their questions answered in one place.

"You're not running around with your head chopped off, not knowing who to ask questions to. Because you're a very independent person and you don't like to ask questions, or ask the wrong questions, to people on campus because you don't want to offend anybody. Because that's part of the military lifestyle, the culture that we came from -- being very independent and not making mistakes," said Niebur.

Another issue the UW Board of Regents is focusing on is making sure any credits earned from education before or during military service get transferred appropriately.

Even though Niebur was an electronics technician in the Navy, he's still finding himself taking basic computer science classes.

"It's getting better, but the process needs to be sped up because it is taking a lot of the guys' benefits away because they're having to use their benefits for these classes," said Niebur.

The UW Board of Regents also discussed how to make sure student veterans get easy access to mental health services. Plus its members want to put a priority on connecting student vets with jobs after graduation.

As about 20 student vets run in honor of those who have served, the U-W system wants to make sure they know they're not running alone.

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