The Daily Gamecock

USC named ‘military friendly school’

University among 10 SEC schools, 22 in S.C. to receive honor

USC has more than 1,400 active military students and student veterans on campus, and now the university has been recognized for its services to those who serve the country.

USC was named a “Military Friendly School” on a list released Monday by Victory Media, a national media organization.

The list names the top 15 percent — or 1,739 — of U.S. schools for recruiting and retaining students with military experience.

The recognition is based on surveys and accounts of the programs, discounts, scholarships, clubs, networking and staff that schools offer for student veterans as well as students currently serving in the military.

Victory Media’s profile of USC notes the services the school offers veterans, including full-time counselors, career-placement advising, campus social events and support of military installations, as some of the qualities that make the school “military friendly.”

The university is one of 10 Southeastern Conference schools to be recognized in the list, and one of 22 schools in South Carolina, including the Citadel, Coastal Carolina University, Columbia International University and USC’s Beaufort and Sumter campuses.

Jacob Rivers, the director of USC’s Office of Veterans Services, said his office provides a number of support programs, like working as a liaison between students and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to ensure that students receive their benefits.

“All of these people depend on us to get paid every month,” Rivers said. “People have worked very, very hard to earn their benefits ... They earn it the hard way.”

The “ace in the hole” for his office, Rivers said, is the Office of the Bursar’s veterans deferment option for payment, which allows students to stay enrolled in classes without payment until their education benefits are processed through the government.

That service, which is not offered by all schools, makes it possible for about half of the university’s military students to stay in school, Rivers said.

Marine Corps veteran Andrew Mohs, a second-year mechanical engineering student and president of the campus chapter of the Student Veterans Association, said the financial benefits the school offers compared with others’ was one of the deciding factors that brought him to USC.

Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the government covers the cost of residential tuition fees at a public school.

But for out-of-state students, USC’s Yellow Ribbon Agreement with the VA waives $2,850 each semester from their nonresident fees, and the VA matches it, according to Rivers.

“USC’s Yellow Ribbon program pays more than a lot of other schools would,” Mohs said.

When they get on campus, Rivers said, most eventually graduate. He estimated that more than 90 percent of veterans who come to USC end up graduating, and they do so with high GPAs.

“That is a very good thing for everybody,” Rivers said. “Helping to place educated veterans into the nation’s labor force is one of the most important things that the university does because these people have been trained to accomplish and not give up and work day and night ... They are very well disciplined, and they work very hard.”

Sgt. 1st Class William Paige is one of them.

He’s studying psychology at USC through a national two-year program called “Green to Gold.”

Paige, who expects to graduate in Spring 2014, has taken classes at USC’s satellite program at Fort Jackson.

He praised the university’s outreach to military students and the Office of Veterans Affairs for helping him make his transition this semester.

“A lot of little things add up that help take the load off the soldier,” Paige said. “(USC has) shown me that they’re dedicated to taking care of soldiers and their families.”

Now that he’s here, Paige is excited about pursuing his degree and life on campus.

“I am just excited about the road that lies ahead, going to school and experiencing the college life,” he said. “I’m honored that I’ve been given this opportunity at USC.”