Baylor offers veterans smooth transition

Baylor AFROTC students complete a dress blues inspection on Sept. 14, 2016. Baylor was recently ranked sixth in the nation among large private schools for veterans. Photo credit: Liesje Powers

By Kalyn Story | Staff Writer

Luisa Villafranca said she experienced a culture shock as a new student at Baylor after serving seven years in the U.S. Air Force. She said she would not have been able to succeed in her collegiate career without the resources and support she received from Baylor’s Veterans and Education Transitional Services (VETS) program.

It was no surprise to Villafranca that Baylor was ranked sixth in the nation among large private schools for veterans by the Guide to Military Friendly Schools. praised Baylor’s “outstanding commitment and programs for the nation’s veterans and their families.”

Villafranca said one of the most beneficial resources Baylor offered her was a veterans transition course which helped her move back into a civilian lifestyle and taught her to utilize the resources Baylor offers.

“Everyone I met at Baylor has been incredibly welcoming to me as a veteran,” Villafranca said. “I don’t think I would have made it without my supportive professors and classmates.”

Kevin Davis, VETS program manager, Baylor graduate and U.S. Marine Corps veteran, now teaches the veteran transition class and said he learns more from his students than he thinks they learn from him.

“Baylor’s mission is that I am supposed to be helping them prepare for worldwide service and leadership. Many of them have already accomplished that, and my job is to help them move forward and focus on their identity now as Baylor students,” Davis said.

Davis said the military friendly title is well-deserved for all the people working in the veterans affairs office and that it is a constant reminder to him to always put the students first and show veterans that Baylor is more than military friendly.

“More than military friendly, I want to be military inspiring,” Davis said. “It’s not just thinking about supporting our veterans in a moment but really inspiring them to transition to new missions and new lives of service.”

One thing Davis said sets Baylor above and beyond other universities when it comes to being military friendly is the financial aspect of a college education. Davis said many students may think Baylor is not an option for them economically because it is a private school.

Davis explained that the post-9/11 GI Bill covers about $23,000 in tuition for each veteran students a year, which is not enough to fund the cost of a Baylor education. Davis said Baylor opens up 300 Yellow Ribbon slots a year, meaning that whatever cost remains after the GI Bill funding, Baylor will pay half of it and the government will pay the second half, essentially covering the full tuition for veterans at Baylor.

Jessica Alford is the veterans coordinator at Baylor. She provides the benefits counseling for veteran students to help them make sure they are receiving all the education benefits they are eligible for.

“I get to work with the real heroes every day,” Alford said. “I can never repay these students enough who were willing to delay their education to defend my country.”

Alford comes from a military family and has always wanted to serve veterans. She said she loves helping veterans at Baylor in any way she can.

Alford said she is always looking for ways to go above and beyond her job description, like helping veterans find child care and look for jobs after they graduate.

“I will do anything to help veterans succeed in and outside of Baylor,” Alford said. “I am in awe of each and every one of them.”