Military Family Research Institute awards grants to promote academic success among veterans

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Twenty-one higher education institutions in Indiana will receive grants to develop support programs and services for student service members and veterans.

Operation Diploma complements the national Yellow Ribbon program, through which higher education institutions address gaps between GI Bill funding and local tuition.

Operation Diploma complements the national Yellow Ribbon program, through which higher education institutions address gaps between GI Bill funding and local tuition.

The grants were awarded through Operation Diploma, an initiative of the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University that was launched through a $5.8 million gift from the Lilly Endowment Inc. Operation Diploma assists higher education institutions and student veterans’ organizations across Indiana to better serve student military service members, veterans entering college for the first time and those re-entering college after extended service and deployment.

Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, a professor of child development and family studies at Purdue and director of the institute, said studies have shown that students who have served or are currently serving in the military sometimes feel frustrated, alone and misunderstood when they arrive on campus. These grants will help promote academic success by addressing barriers to higher education for the students.

“The goal of Operation Diploma is to engage institutions of higher learning in a dialogue about creating an environment in this state that is supportive of veterans’ and student service members’ transition from combat to the classroom,” she said. “The new GI bill, which went into effect Aug. 1, is expected to attract more veterans and student service members to campuses across the state and nation. This anticipated influx makes it even more imperative to address the growing needs of this student demographic.”

The Operation Diploma initiative also complements the national Yellow Ribbon program, through which higher education institutions address gaps between GI Bill funding and local tuition.

This is the first grant cycle, and a national review panel awarded more than $270,000 to the following institutions:

  • Ball State University
  • Harrison College
  • Indiana State University
  • Indiana University-Bloomington
  • Indiana University-East
  • Indiana University-Southeast
  • Indiana Wesleyan
  • Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis
  • Ivy Tech-Bloomington
  • Ivy Tech-Central Indiana
  • Ivy Tech-Kokomo
  • Ivy Tech-Lafayette
  • Ivy Tech-Richmond
  • Purdue University-Columbus and Greensburg
  • Purdue University-Calumet
  • Purdue University-North Central
  • Purdue University-West Lafayette
  • St. Mary’s College
  • St. Mary-of-the-Woods
  • University of Evansville
  • University of Indianapolis

“Some of these proposed projects also will extend beyond the institutions at which they are based. For example, one university plans to develop a Virtual Veterans’ Center with a benefits decision tree, available to veterans considering attending any Indiana college or university,” said Stacie Hitt, director of Operation Diploma. “Another university also proposes establishing a regional consortium of student veteran-friendly schools to provide more resources and social supports to students.”

More than 7,500 Indiana veterans used GI Bill education benefits in 2008, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Military Family Research Institute is a research and outreach organization based at Purdue. It’s primarily supported by the Lilly Endowment and the Department of Defense.

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