Technology is a key tool to accessing special populations--like veteran students. By harnessing the full abilities of what technology can do for us, The University of Iowa was able to streamline their Veteran Students website and ease the process for their students. They shared this information in their presentation at the 2019 AACRAO Technology and Transfer Conference.
The University of Iowa is home to more than 2,200 veteran students. Student veterans have to deal with red tape to ensure that they are receiving the full benefits of their GI Bill coverage. Between not knowing which documents they needed to turn in, the deadlines for submissions or even the struggle of dealing with issues like PTSD and other effects of being a veteran, these students were falling behind, and the staff at the University of Iowa realized that they needed to change things to make the process easier.
The University of Iowa has two separate offices for student veterans: a student services office and a G.I. Bill office. Both have different websites, and one is housed under a different organization. The institution began partnering more with Military and Veteran Student Services, and launched a separate veteran services host site in Drupal that puts all the information together from the two separate sites. The staff began preparing for this one consolidated site by researching other institutions and their veteran services site.
The first step that they implemented on the new site was making a veterans worksheet online. The design was so that the students would have to annually submit and update it. This worksheet indicated which semesters they wanted to be certified to use their benefits, FAFSA coverage, and more. All the answers are required to erase the possibilities of having to hunt down the student for completion, and the worksheet enters a workflow system so that the university staff can easily search it in their system, and see if any elements need updating. Prior to this, the paper documentation that they used required a manual scan and conversion to PDF--this system makes it simpler on both ends.
Moving forward, the team at the University of Iowa knew that they would have to run things differently to avoid the issues from before, and be more strategic in their analysis and outreach. Using more reports and dashboards, the staff roped in the IT team to analyze information like deployment rates for veteran students to monitor enrollment, and other factors like grades dropping to see if the students needed assistance.
They collect credit hours to measure G.I. Bill benefit usage, monitor non-returning veterans to see why they aren’t returning (due to lack of money or personal factors), and watch enrollment activities to see how they can help the students. This hones the institution’s retention tools, and ensures that the staff is actively engaging with their student veterans rather than just provide a service and call it a day.
You can view their website here.