Veterans enter workforce through Wisconsin's Technical Colleges
Veterans who faced challenges during their service return to Wisconsin with leadership skills that can be a great match for the education and training available through the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS). By accessing the WTCS, veterans contribute to their college community, which only enhances their value to Wisconsin business and industry.
The number of students using Wisconsin GI Bill benefits in the WTCS has increased dramatically since these new state education benefits became available during the 2005-06 school year, when about 1,000 eligible veterans or eligible spouses or dependents first used the program.
During the 2011-12 academic year, almost 4,500 Wisconsin veterans, spouses or dependents used the Wisconsin GI Bill in the WTCS.
Under the state legislation, veterans who were Wisconsin residents when they enlisted qualify for free tuition and fees for WTCS classes that lead to an associate degree, vocational diploma or are part of a liberal arts program. Spouses and dependents may also qualify for free tuition and fees if they are Wisconsin residents and the surviving spouse or child of an eligible veteran who died in the line of duty or as a result of a service-connected disability or have a service-connected disability rating of 30 percent or more.
More vet students, more services
While the Wisconsin GI Bill provides some of the most generous education benefits in the nation, WTCS colleges have responded to the sharp increases in enrollment of veterans and their family members by increasing the services and assistance they provide specifically targeted to these students.
Veterans sometimes need extra help achieving their educational goals. “It is hard for them to adapt to the freedom of college life. Plus they may have physical disabilities or emotional struggles,” explained Jackie Helgeson, who coordinates access to financial aid to veterans their families. She helps them connect with the wide range of services available through Western Technical College in La Crosse.
Many veterans want a career somewhat related to their military jobs and lifestyle so they choose criminal justice or fire fighting programs. Others follow their dreams and do something completely different, choosing from the 300 career programs offered through Wisconsin’s technical colleges.
Since 1999, the WTCS has formally recognized the value of military experience and education credits so that students can get a jump-start on earning a WTCS credential. They also help veterans build their post-military resumes for the job search. The WTCS and the University of Wisconsin System created the Veterans Wisconsin Education Portal to make it as easy as possible for veterans to access benefits and make the transition from military service to college and career.