Student Services Program Review

Program Name: Veterans Services
Program Contact: Evirs, Justine
Academic Year: 2016-2017
Status: Submitted for review
Updated on: 10/28/2016 06:34 PM

1. Description of Program
Provide a brief description of the program and how it supports the college's College Mission and Diversity Statements, CSM Strategic Goals 2013/14 to 2015/16, and other Institutional Program Planning as appropriate. What is the program's vision for sustaining and improving student learning and success over the next three years?
  1.  Description

College of San Mateo's Veterans Services Program provides a variety of support services targeting all military affliated students in or around the county of San Mateo. Primary services include new student veteran information sessions, GI Bill benefit certifications, counseling and referrals to various departments on campus such as financial aid,Learning Center,Psychological Services, and Student Life. In addition,referrals are made to off-campus community resources such as transfer school student veteran representatives, scholarships, internships, veteran service organizations, social services such as the VA Hospital, social and mental health services agencies, and other veteran professional associations. (Strategic Goal3)

A significant distinction from other CA Community Colleges, is that all of these services are provided in our Veteran Resource and Opportunity Center(VROC)as a One-Stop Shop for all military afflilated students. 

The Veteran Resource and Opportunity Center was established in February 2012. As the VROC approaches its Five-year anniversary the College can reflect on the many changes it has experienced. When the VROC opened in spring 2012 it became the gathering place for CSM’s veteran students.  The Center encapsulates a comfortable and relaxing environment that allows for a sense of camaraderie amongst the student veterans.  Essentially, the VROC serves as a “safe zone" and a service center for this unique and non-traditional student population. 

In addition, it is a place where veterans can be empowered to be involved and avoid the typical student veteran/non-traditional college student expeirence of going to class and then going directly home. The VROC is a not only a "safe zone" and or a service center, but it is more importantly a Transition Center for CSM's recently discharged service members. The Center allows for our recently transitioned service members to connect and bond with their brothers and sisters  as they embark on their new chapter in life. The VROC also provides a place for student veterans to participate in study groups, use computers (lap and desk top computers are available), watch television, and enjoy coffee and other beverages as well as snacks that have been donated or purchased.(Strategic Goals 1 & 3)

 

Reference to Institutional Planning Documents

College Mission Statement...serves the diverse educational, economic, social, and cultural needs of it students and the community.

Diversity Statement...maintains a policy of inclusiveness

Strategic Goal 1 - Improve Academic Success

Strategic Goal 3 Develop High Quality Programs and Services

 


2. Student Learning and Program Data
  A. Student Learning Outcomes Assessment
Reflect on recent SLO assessment results for the program. Identify trends and discuss areas in need of improvement. Specify how SLO assessment informs program development and changes to the program.

 

SLO #1: 85% of GI Benefit eligible veterans will complete and submit the FAFSA.

Though not reaching the pre-established SLO goal, 60.3% of student veterans applied and received Financial Aid in 2015-2016.  This percentage reflects an increase when compared to the 53.8% from the immediate past year.

SLO #2: 90% of GI Bill eligible veterans will apply for the Board of Governor's Fee Waiver (BOGFW).

During the 2015-2016 academic year, 142 veterans were certified for GI Bill Benefits.  Of this group, 58 or 41.1% received the BOGFW.  

Assessment

It can be determined that student veterans have not taken full advantage of federal and state financial aid. In the past few years, the number of student veterans applying for financial aid has remained relatively static largely due to a lack of staff who could promote financial aid options and ensure that they applied for aid by submitting the FAFSA and/or applying for scholarship opportunities.  

With the hiring of a full-time Program Services Coordinator in Fall 2015, many existing services have been refined and several new projects have been implemented.  For example,  New Student Veteran Information Sessions that ensures that all new and or prospective military connected students are aware of financial aid and scholarship options, admissions process, and the many other available resources that are available to them as CSM students.

A common misconception is that student veterans assume that eligibility for VA benefits negates their eligibly for financial aid or scholarships.  As part of  the New Student Veteran Information Sessions, the Program Services Coordinator clearly delineates the steps necessary to apply for financial aid which includes the BOGFW.

Though there was an increase in student veterans applying and receiving financial aid along with the BOGFW, it will be necessary to hire additional staff to maintain these numbers and to meet and surpass the SLO goals.  It can be also noted that even though a financial aid representative is available at the Center one hour per a week, this is not sufficient to fully promote the availability and benefits of applying for financial aid.

  B. Student Support Indicators
1. Review student program usage and discuss any differences across demographic variables. Refer to SARS, Banner, Planning, Research and Institutional Effectiveness (PRIE) reports and other data sources as appropriate.

 

During the 2015-2016 academic year, a permanent, full-time VROC Program Services Coordinator was hired.  One of her first initiatives was to develop with the support of student veterans was a Mission Statement, Vision and Core Values.

Mission:

To provide all student veterans and their families a college experience with inspiration and purpose.

Vision:

To develop remarkable student veterans who will be inspired to build on their education through leadership roles, social entrepreneurship and lifelong education.

Core Values:

Integrity, Empathy and Loyalty

Veteran Resource and Opportunity Center Visitations:

From July 2015 to July 2016, there were a total of 7,999 visits captured by SAR TRAK compared to 4,750 over a 3-year period from February 2011-February 2014.  It should be noted that without dedicated staff for the referenced three-year period, tracking student visits to the VROC was haphazard.  Nonetheless, it can be ascertained even if anecdotally that there has been a significant increase in veteran students frequenting the VROC.

Within the last year, the new Program Services Coordinator has contributed to transforming the VROC from a lounge/safe zone to a service center and lounge/safe zone. The VROC hosts a number of community resources on a daily basis ranging from veteran specific transfer admission officers, San Mateo County Veteran Service Officers, community non-profits, and company representatives that are looking to hire student veterans. Other resources include internship opportunities, scholarship opportunities, Student Veterans of America resources, yoga classes with Connected Warriors, SEP planning with the new part time veteran counselor, and mental health resources. A variety of amenities such as coffee, snacks, computers, TV, study rooms, printing, and  peer to peer mentorship and camaraderie are available to veteran students in the Center. To ensure student needs are being met, extended office hours are Monday thru Thursday 7:30-7:00 and Friday's 7:30-12. The VROC Program Services Coordinator works full-time in the VROC from 8:30-4:30 and manages five student assistants. The student assistants have been cross-trained and are capable of assisting other students.  With the variety of tasks assigned to the program services coordinator, she is dependent on the student staff’s support.

A student satisfaction survey was not conducted this year, but the plan is to develop a survey during the 2016-17 academic year.  Survey results will be analyzed and incorporated into the next Program Review. However, included below are responses from the VROC student staff who have witnessed the transformation of the VROC in the past year. 

How have the recent changes in the VROC impacted you personally?

 1) "It has empowered to me get more involved in veteran initiatives on- and off-campus more. It has also provided me with more resources such as mentorship, possible future employers and other organizations that can benefit me." -Jose Cortes

 2) "The VROC has made me internalize my own success as a student veteran." -Tyler Kuber

 3) "It made the process of getting started and recertified extremely easy" -Robert Armero

 4) "It has helped me find my purpose. Before I didn't have any direction and Justine has helped me focus and find that direction" -Tiannia Romero

 5) "The sense of community, common ground and mutual support has been the most impactful for me personally" -Stephen McReynolds

 

What changes have impacted our student veterans the most in your opinion? 

1) "Having a veteran specific counselor, our new one-page checklist/streamlining the admissions process, and putting an bigger emphasis in resources that empower students to do more. " -Jose Cortes"

2) "I think that their confidence has risen, with the family atmosphere that is provided. It feels like a community/camaraderie we had when we were in the military." -Tyler Kuber

3) "I think the veteran counselor has made the largest impact" -Robert Armero

4) "Having a counselor in our VROC has made a big difference. The resources that are now provided make it easier for student veterans to succeed" -Tiannia Romero

5) "Having the one stop shop service center and a support network has made the biggest difference. Having someone understand our culture and show us the way is really beneficial. - Stephen McReynolds

 

 

2. Discuss any differences in student program usage across modes of service delivery.

As captured by SARS Trac for the 2014-2015 academic year, veteran students utilize the VROC for a variety of purposes with the majority of students defining the Center as a "safe zone"; a place where they can congregate with peers with whom they can relate, a place to relax, and also unwind by watching television.  Further, the Center reflects the aspects of the student veterans experience as memorabilia decorate the walls.  In addition, veteran students readily utilize the many services offered and provided in the Center including computer, fax machine, printer, and copy machine.  Also, students take advantage of the one-stop services which include academic and personal counseling, financial aid, disability services.  As needed, students are referred to other campus departments.

One significant development during the past year has been the enhanced visibility of the VROC website along with the utilization of social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn. 

VROC Website

There has been a significant increase in the number of page views to the VROC webpage between 2014-2015 and 2015-2016.  The 2015-2016 year experienced a 40.8% increase in views in comparison to the previous year, 4,110 hits vs. 2,919 respectively.  The Forms page views increased this year to 623 compared to 296 in the previous year.  Also resulting in an increase was the Staff page which reflected 452 views in comparison to 398 views.

Several new pages were added to the VROC website this year and included Information Sessions, Veterans Club and a Calendar of Events page .  The page view were as follows: Information Sessions 495; Veterans Club 487; and Calendar of Events 623. 

Facebook

A new and exciting development has been the incorporation of the CSM VROC on the social media site Facebook.  The VROC and its many activities have been prominently featured on Facebook with hundreds of "Likes" appearing on its various postings.  The CSM Student Veterans of America Chapter has posted regularly on the site as group photos and activities. 

LinkedIn

A source for networking and seeking out potential employment opportunities, LinkedIn has become a significant connection for many of CSM's student veterans.  Not only are students utilizing this social media source, the Program Services Coordinator has established contacts at LinkedIn with the most notable connection being the company's veteran staff representative.  In fact, the veteran staff representative has been invited to speak at an upcoming Student Veteran Leadership Conference planned for the fall of 2016. Many of our CSM student veterans have also been asked to participate in commercials promoting LinkedIn's veteran initiatives with Medal of Honor Recipient, Florent Groberg scheduled to release August 2016 and November 2016  

 

 

 

 

 

  C. Program Efficiency Indicators. Do we deliver programs efficiently given our resources?
Summarize trends in program efficiency. Discuss no-shows, group vs. individual delivery, etc.

Overall, the VROC is very efficient given that there is only one full-time, permanent staff member, but with the growing foot traffic in the VROC, the demand for existing services, and expanded student engagement on campus, it is unrealistic for one staff member to manage the Center.  As the Program Services Coordinator takes on more responsibilities, managing various tasks will become increasingly challenging and difficult.  It is unrealistic to expect the PSC to fully support the growing number of student veterans with a support staff comprised of VA Work Study Student Assistants. Due to confidentiality concerns, work study students are not allowed to access student records nor can they assist prospective students with the GI Bill certification process.  In essence, student assistants level of responsibility is limited to clerical tasks such as answering the telephone , greeting visitors to the Center, maintaining the Center's supplies. Please note that the student assistants play a critical role in the VROC and their responsibilities are not to be minimized but rather the point is to clarify their limited roles as student assistants.  

The VROC as a facility is well-suited to providing appropriate resources to veteran students.  The VROC provides four desk top computers, three laptops, and two printers, along with a fax and copy machine.  Comfortable furniture and a television contribute to the multipurpose facility that can be used for relaxing, studying, and meeting with staff.  A former Zen Room which was underutilized has been transformed into an office in order to provide an office for the Financial Aid representative as well as the Disability Counselor.  The office will be further utilized when a half-time counselor is assigned to the Center in the fall of 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


3. Additional Factors
Discuss additional factors that impact the program, including, as applicable, changes in student populations, state-wide initiatives, transfer requirements, advisory committee recommendations, legal mandates, workforce development and employment opportunities, community needs. See Institutional Research as needed. Discuss additional factors that impact the program, including, as applicable, changes in student populations, state-wide initiatives, transfer requirements, advisory committee recommendations, legal mandates, workforce development and employment opportunities, community needs. See Institutional Research as needed. Discuss additional factors that impact the program, including, as applicable, changes in student populations, state-wide initiatives, transfer requirements, advisory committee recommendations, legal mandates, workforce development and employment opportunities, community needs. See Institutional Research as needed.

It is expected that the number of veterans enrolling at CSM may increase due to the pending troop withdrawal from current ongoing conflicts including the war in Iraq.  As well, the robust VA monthly housing allowance, one of the highest in the nation, is a lucrative draw for veteran students to CSM.  Further, with a full-time Program Services Coordinator now staffing the VROC, expanded outreach and recruitment will be taking place to promote CSM as a viable option for veterans to pursue their higher education. 

Currently funding for the VROC PSC position and the services provided at the Center are primarily from categorical funds including Student Equity and SSSP.  Given the growing number of veterans enrolling at CSM, additional funding will be needed to provide the necessary services to CSM's veteran student population.  The College can demonstrate its commitment to these students by allocating Fund 1 dollars but another pending source will be additional categorical funds from the state.  Presently, there is a growing effort to lobby the State of California to allocate funds to support the establishment of veteran centers and to provide funding for support services at California's community colleges.  Below is an advisory that is being presented to the Chancellor's Office of the California Community Colleges.  

"Whereas the California Community College System educates over 60,000 student veterans each year using Veterans Administration (VA) education benefits infusing over $50,000,000 each month into local communities and is the largest public higher education system in the United States. 

Whereas the strenuous and complex  nature of VA benefit processing, payment and re-payment issues, rolling enrollment and registration dates in our system, the number of first generation college students among military Veterans community, the carious service-connected disabilities and re-entry student transitional barriers, some VRC staff process CAlVet fee waivers and additional military affiliated educational benefits, and the vital navigation of the multitude of VA and Veteran service agencies necessary for a successful transition takes significant professional development training, experience and education, and dedicated time. 

Whereas the certifying official typically will meet with the benefit recipient and work with his/her file at least ten times and Veterans counselors should meet with student Veterans whether on benefits or not at least twice per semester therefore staffing capacity issues effect student Veteran success rates.

Let it be resolved that the California Community College Veterans Services Regional Representatives recommend a general  ratio of 300 VA benefit recipients each academic year to one 100% full time equivalent school certifying official and recommend a general ratio of 300 VA benefit recipients  each academic year to one 100% full time equivalent professional Veterans counselor. the number of benefit recipient must be determined by a two year average of the VA Annual Reporting Fee Report (under public law 90-77). We hereby support and advocate for this reasonable rate of staffing to best serve our nations Veterans returning back to our colleges to see upward social mobility and use their valiantly earned educational benefits."- The CA Community Colleges, Vteran Services Regional Representatives

 


4. Planning
  A. Results of Program Plans and Actions
Describe results, including measurable outcomes, from plans and actions in recent program reviews.

 

A number of goals were established when the VROC Program Services Coordinator was hired.  The PSC along with a student leadership team collaborated to establish the following goals.

 

Goal: Streamline admission process through re-vamping veteran services website and educating the campus on why these processes are important. 

Outcome: Accomplished. All new student veterans use the VROC as their first point of contact when prospective students. 

 

Goal: Create a Mission, Vision, and Core Values for the VROC and Veteran Services Program

Outcome: Accomplished.

  • Mission - To vide all student veterans and their families a college experience with inspiration and purpose 
  • Vision: To develop remarkable student veterans who will be inspired to build on their education through leadership roles, social entrepreneurship and life long education.Goal: Monitor the Effectiveness of the VROC
  •  Core Values: Integrity, Empathy and Loyalty

 

Goal: Maintain Federal and VA Work Study Support for Veteran Student Employees

Outcome: All student employees are on Federal or VA Work Study. All student employees are veterans.

 

Goal: Obtain a part-time veteran specific counselor to be located in the VROC.

Outcome: Commitment from the Dean of Counseling to provide a dedicated 50 percent FTE veteran counselor starting in Fall of 2016. . 

 

Goal: Establish and maintain an active Student Veterans of America Chapter. 

Outcome: Accomplished.  CSM's SVA chapter has been nominated for, "Chapter of the Year" at the Student Veterans of America National Conference.

 

Goal: Host a state wide Student Veteran Leadership Conference

Outcome: Conference is being planned for Fall 2016.

 

Goal: Create a one stop shop for our military affiliated community on campus

Outcome: Target fall 2016 for the establishment of a One-Stop Veteran Services Center.  Services will include New student veteran orientation, counseling, financial aid, and GI Bill benefits certification.   

 

Goal: Become and active member in the National Association of Veteran Program Administrators (NAVPA).

Outcome: Accomplished. 

  

Goal: Build a student veteran only scholarship in partnership with our community supporters

Outcome: Established the Student Veteran of the Semester Scholarship, which will recognize two student veterans annually at the campus wide scholarship ceremony.

 

Goal: Establish a program that will mentor student veteran Public Safety majors in the county of San Mateo

Outcome: Established a partnership with the American Legion to create the 1st Vet-toVet peer mentoring program in the county of San Mateo.

  B. Future Program Plans and Actions
Prioritize the plans to be carried out to sustain and improve student success. Briefly describe each plan and how it supports the CSM Strategic Goals 2013/14 to 2015/16. For each plan, list actions and measurable outcomes. Plans may extend beyond a single year. Describe the professional activities and institutional collaborations that would be most effective in carrying out the program's vision to improve student learning and success.

The vision for the VROC is to sustain new and existing services and to assess through a student satisfaction survey what other services student veterans are seeking.

1. Secure a full time School Certifying Official to manage all daily tasks related to VA Benefit Certifications and VROC daily operations. Currently this task is divided between two staff  who have other responsibilities. It is imperative that these duties be dedicated to one staff person to ensure  proper assistance to student veterans,  timely processing and ensure compliance with regulations.  The certification process is complex and can have dire consequences for students if not properly completed.  (Strategic Goal 3) 

2. Maintain workshops and other types of institutional training that educates the college's faculty and staff to veteran student’s issues and needs. It is important that the college continue to sustain the programming and events that have been supported by CSM Cares and Student Equity. By being aware and cognizant of this student population's needs, the college's faculty and staff can contribute to their academic success. (Strategic Goal 1)

3. Continue to monitor the academic progress of veteran students. While many of the students are succeeding, there are those who leave the college due to lack of academic progress. The college must expand its efforts to track and as appropriate incorporate intrusive measures to support the academic success of these veteran students. (Strategic Goal 1)

4. Establish a Learning Community for veterans. Providing classroom experiences in which veterans comprise the majority of students in the class will allow them to develop a sense of camaraderie, allow them to form study groups, and also allow them to inform and educate their non-veteran classmates and instructors.   The inclusion of a full-time Program Services Coordinator can assist with the development of the learning community and help promote this community to veterans. (Strategic Goal 1)

5. Establish a CSM Veteran Services Advisory  Council to provide further insight into programming for the VROC. 

6. Host a variety of events that promote the visibility of military veterans including an event featuring Medal of Honor Recipient, Florent Groberg.

 


5. Program Maintenance
  A. Course Outline Updates
Review the course outline update record. List the courses that will be updated in the next academic year. For each course that will be updated, provide a faculty contact and the planned submission month. See the Committee on Instruction website for course submission instructions. Contact your division's COI representatives if you have questions about submission deadlines. Career and Technical Education courses must be updated every two years.
Courses to be updated Faculty contact Submission month
 N/A    
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
  B. Website Review
Review the program's website(s) annually and update as needed.
Faculty contact(s) Date of next review/update
Justine Evirs  Periodically updated as needed.
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
  C. SLO Assessment Contacts
Faculty contact(s) Date of next review/update
 Justine Evirs  October  2018
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

6. Dominant Themes Summary for IPC
Briefly summarize the dominant, most important themes or trends contained in this program review, for division deans to collect and forward to the Institutional Planning Committee. What are the key program issues that matter most? (Brief paragraph or bullet points acceptable).

The primary themes are dominant in the Veteran Services Program Review.  The first two are the VROC itself and the services provided to student veterans and the third is the need for additional staff.

Since its inception, the VROC has been appreciated, welcomed, and regarded as a "safe zone" by veteran students.  Having a place to call their own, a place where camaraderie is second to none, and a place where veteran students can unwind from the academic challenges and the microagressions they experience in the classroom is indeed a safe place for CSM's veteran students. 

The variety of services provided to student veterans in the VROC has been constant for its first three and one half years, but with the addition of a full-time Program Services Coordinator, the services have expanded, services have become better coordinated, and needed leadership has been established.  As noted by student testimonials earlier in this document, students are appreciative  the better coordinated services, of the leadership extended by the PSC, and the expanded support they are receiving not only from the VROC PSC but from the entire college.  It is evident that faculty and staff are making a difference in the veteran students' academic success as several faculty and staff regularly participate in student veteran activities and events. 

The expanding utilization of the VROC by student veterans, the continued enrollment growth of student veterans due to coordinated outreach by the PSC and coupled with the high month GI Bill allowance and with the expanded and better coordination of services will continue to strain the abilities of one full-time staff member.  Utilization of student workers provides a meaningful experience for the students but they cannot be expected to carry out high level responsibilities at the Center as their primary purpose is to gain an education.  To fully support military veteran students, additional staffing will be required.  And as the veteran student population continues to grow, expanded facilities must also be taken into consideration.  Planning for the expected enrollment growth and taking steps to ensure that these students' needs are met, must be made a priority.