UCO Ranked No. 9 College for Vets

The University of Central Oklahoma has been ranked No. 9 in the Military Times “Best for Vets: Colleges 2019” list among all of the colleges and universities in the United States.

This ranking makes me feel proud to work for such a great organization,” said Catherine Orozco-Christmas, Veteran Support Services coordinator. “I am a military dependent myself as an Army brat and a Navy wife, and this Best for Vets distinction solidifies my family’s belief that we landed in the right place here in Oklahoma.”

Last year UCO received the Veterans Upward Bound grant, a federally funded program by the Department of Education designed to help U.S. military veterans enter and succeed in higher education.

Conversely, the Veteran Student Support Services SALUTE grant only helps military veterans at UCO and was the first grant VSS received. To qualify for the SALUTE program, veterans have to be first generation, low income or have disabilities, or a mixture of those.

UCO debuted by ranking 40th a few years ago and is now in the top 10, according to retired Lt. Col.  Kennan Horn, director of veteran programs. Horn said that a large reason UCO is the best school in the state for military veterans because of the grants they receive.

“To be honest, it not about where we rank, it’s about what we do,” Horn said. “That is the way soldiers are, they don’t want hear what you have to say, they want to see what you do.”

In order to secure the grants, Horn said that there are certain criteria to meet, if not the budget provided will be cut. For instance, to secure the SALUTE program funding, two-thirds of the veteran students in the program have to be first generation and low income.

The Upward Bound Program has to have 125 veteran students enrolled in the program. Horn said UCO has met 85 percent of the criteria within its first nine months.

Once UCO is notified that they’ve received the grants, Horn said he has to hire coaches immediately to recruit military veterans by informing them to be educated on the benefits of education.

“Basically we help calm their fears, ease them into going to school and set them up for success,” Horn said.

According to the Military Times, the ranking is strongly based on military veteran enrollment rates and the graduation percentage. Georgia Southern University and University of South Florida topped the list for “Best Vet College” this year.

Horn said UCO is not on the top because the enrollment rates will never be as high as those universities and it strongly depends on the veterans.

“The oldest student I know is in his early 70s, who recently just graduated, and the youngest is somewhere around 23 years old,” Horn said.

UCO currently has more than 500 military veterans enrolled.

UCO’s VSS is organizing events for military veteran students for Veterans Day. There will be a Veterans Day Ceremony with awards, including the Best Veteran Student of the Year, on Nov. 9 in the Nigh University Center Ballrooms.

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