Veterans and reservists are increasingly looking to the City University of New York as a cost-effective conduit through which they can pursue their educational objectives and establish their careers. CUNY currently serves some 3,237 former service members enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs across the University’s 25 campuses, a number that has grown by 50 percent since 2010.
CUNY’s affordability enables veterans and active service members to make the most of their VA benefits, and students tout the supports they can receive on each campus. CUNY offers guidance for veterans who are transitioning to college life, focusing on students’ individual needs. Veterans are connected with housing and job opportunities, financial education and opportunities for recreation and fitness. Campus veteran clubs allow students to help each other navigate the challenges of campus life. Veterans and reservists alike say they feel a strong connection to, and camaraderie with, other students who have shared their experiences.
“CUNY is proud of its student-veterans and the accomplishments and rich life experience they bring to our campuses,” said Interim Chancellor Vita C. Rabinowitz. “The increasing number of veterans who choose CUNY is a testament to the services and resources we provide to support their success. We welcome them and proudly acknowledge their achievements.”
There is a veteran affairs representative for each campus, ensuring that student veterans and reservists receive support for the duration of their CUNY experience. Veterans returning from active duty often find their lives have changed significantly over the years they have been gone. To help veterans get through these times, CUNY’s Office of Veterans Affairs helps them find housing and health care, get academic support, conduct job searches and prepare for interviews, manage personal finances and even find adult-care services for parents who have aged.
“The support [student veterans] will need tends to be very individualistic and can range from needing assistance in figuring out VA benefits, receiving tutoring in a subject they are struggling in, or helping them with balancing finances,” said Laura Scazzafavo, director of veteran services at the College of Staten Island. In recognition of its support for veterans who have been wounded in combat, CSI has been designated a “Purple Heart University” by the Military Order of the Purple Heart, a Congressionally chartered veterans organization. “Veterans, as they transition out of the military, struggle with the absence of regimentation, being left on their own to follow their own schedules and make their own decisions,” Scazzafavo said. “They sometimes need to be told what to do, or given guidance and pointed in the right direction.”
When U.S. National Guard member Larisa Yegorova enrolled at Medgar Evers College last spring to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in biology, the Brooklyn campus did not yet have an Office of Veterans and Military Service like the one Yegorova had utilized while she completed an Associate’s degree at LaGuardia Community College. That changed in July, when Medgar Evers opened its own OVMS, and Yegorova immediately noticed the difference. “Not having it made me feel just how important it is,” said Yegorova of the OVMS, which celebrates its formal grand opening on Nov. 13. “Since this office opened, it’s been a big benefit.”
Jazmin McBride, the Veteran and Military Service coordinator at Medgar Evers, noted that the office, which also serves as a study lounge and meeting space, enables veterans to give each other a lift. “Students are super-resilient; they know how to adapt,” said McBride. “But when they’re not able to do that, they come to the veterans lounge, talk with other student veterans and, through those interactions, they find support.”
The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in 1847, CUNY counts 13 Nobel Prize and 24 MacArthur (“Genius”) grant winners among its alumni. CUNY students, alumni and faculty have garnered scores of other prestigious honors over the years in recognition of historic contributions to the advancement of the sciences, business, the arts and myriad other fields. The University comprises 25 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, CUNY Graduate Center, Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, CUNY School of Law, CUNY School of Professional Studies and CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. The University serves more than 275,000 degree-seeking students. CUNY offers online baccalaureate and master’s degrees through the School of Professional Studies.