Students returning from military services face challenges

Here’s one story very close to home…

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) – Students returning to the University of Missouri-Columbia from military service can find their efforts to resume their studies hampered by bureaucracy.

Aaron Rinehart studies for his corporate finance final in the MU Memorial Union, May 9 in Columbia. In May 2005, Aaron Rinehart – then a senior – was given three weeks notice that his Marine unit was about to be deployed to the African nation of Djibouti. He didn’t know which option to take. (Photo via The Associated Press)

When students are called to active military duty, school policy gives them two options: Drop their classes and receive a tuition refund, or take incomplete grades and finish the coursework when they return.

What’s lacking, one student said, is any sort of guidance.

In May 2005, Aaron Rinehart – then a senior – was given three weeks notice that his Marine unit was about to be deployed to the African nation of Djibouti. He didn’t know which option to take.

Neither, he told the Columbia Missourian, did his professors.

“They were asking me, ‘Well, what do you want me to do?’ and I didn’t know,” Rinehart told the newspaper. “It felt like we were making these half-cocked decisions, and I said, ‘God, this is going to come back and bite me.’ And it did.”

Rinehart chose both. He withdrew from his three economics classes and took incompletes in his other two courses, computer programming and philosophy.

After his return from Africa in April 2006, he checked in with the school’s veterans official, Carol Fleisher, and was told he had been given F’s in all five of his classes.

“I was glad I didn’t know that when I was gone,” he said, “or I would’ve been really stressed out.”

Fleisher worked out the situation, with some difficulty.

“I can’t imagine what I’d do without her help,” Rinehart said. “I’d be doing it all on my own.”

In response, student veterans have organized.

They formed the Mizzou Student Veterans Association a year ago, and the group now has about 80 members.

Besides giving student veterans a chance to socialize with each other, it also works to help them resolve problems with university policies.

In one case, the association wrote to Chancellor Brady Deaton to complain about the school’s financial aid department, which was charging late fees to veterans because their G.I. Bill payments didn’t arrive until after the university’s due date for semester fees.

That got the issue resolved, said Jerod Mickelson, the organization’s former president.

Mickelson, who has twice been deployed to Iraq, said he would like to see a one-stop help center at the university, similar to one at the University of Minnesota.

Read the full article at News Tribune.

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~ by Brad Edwards on May 31, 2007.

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