- Associated Press - Thursday, June 12, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The University of Wyoming has about 600 students who served or are serving in the military, but it doesn’t know much about them.

Unlike other classes of students, UW hasn’t tracked basic information on its student veterans, such as graduation rates, retention rates or average GPA.

But that is changing thanks to an initiative started by the relatively new UW Veterans Services Center.

“It just gives us an awareness of what is happening to our veteran population,” said Marty Martinez, a senior project coordinator with the center. “We can do that with any other class of students, so we wanted to be able to apply that to veterans as well.”

Martinez is working with other UW departments to collect data specific to student veterans, many of whom attend college on the GI Bill, which went into effect in 2009 for America’s newest generation of veterans.

The GI Bill program has distributed more than $30 billion in tuition and other education-related payments to more than 1 million veterans, service members and their families, and to the universities, colleges and trade schools they attend.

“That’s a lot of money coming into our schools, and that’s a lot of veterans entering our campuses. And so we want to make sure we’re doing right for them,” Martinez said.

By collecting better data on student veterans, the college should be able to get a better picture of the challenges those students face and how the college can help them to succeed, he said.

Most college student veterans are non-traditional students because they tend to be older and have gone through a military experience that the traditional student has not.

“So they’re coming here already facing some challenges. We want to make sure that the types of programs and services that we provide are helping them to be successful and successfully navigate all those challenges,” Martinez said.

Martinez, himself retired after serving 29 years in the Wyoming National Guard, said he hopes the state’s community colleges will follow suit. He made a presentation on the topic during a conference of higher education officials this week.

“My goal was that hopefully here at the University of Wyoming and at all of our Wyoming institutions we could do the same thing so that we have that local picture of what’s happening to our veterans,” he said.

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