GVSU earns federal grant to support degree completion for area veterans

room with service seals
The Student Veterans' Lounge in the Kirkhof Center is pictured; the university's support for veterans continues with a federal grant to establish a TRIO Veterans Upward Bound program.
Image Credit: Amanda Pitts

Grand Valley State University received a $1.3 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education to establish a TRIO Veterans Upward Bound (VUB) program, providing free academic support services to low-income veterans who want to complete degree programs.

President Thomas J. Haas said he is pleased that Grand Valley is the second university in Michigan to offer this program, which complements the university's Veterans Network, a network of campus resources dedicated to supporting veterans, active service members and their dependents. Wayne State University is the other institution to offer TRIO VUB.

"Grand Valley has a well-established commitment to serving veterans," Haas said. "TRIO VUB will extend existing notable efforts by providing needed resources to support veterans who are pre-college, or transferring from community college or other institutions."

The federal grant will provide $263,000 annually over five years to serve 125 pre-college, low-income, first-generation veterans per year from Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Allegan counties. The college access and degree completion services tailored to veterans will include advising and mentoring programs, instructor-led computer courses, course materials and supplies.

Jesse Bernal, vice president for Inclusion and Equity, said the reach of this program is significant in West Michigan, which has more than 65,000 veterans in the four-county region. Of that population, 8 percent are unemployed, 2,000 are homeless, and 77 percent do not have a bachelor's degree. 

"The grant enables us to expand our support of veterans in alignment with the university’s strategic priorities, as well as the efforts of the Division of Inclusion and Equity to ensure that we continue to do our part to advance the educational pipeline for everyone," Bernal said.

A search for a director to lead TRIO VUB has begun and recruitment of participants will follow. This project was supported by U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland) and U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.).

“Grand Valley continues to demonstrate its commitment to providing quality educational opportunities for our servicemen and women when they return home,” Huizenga said. “This forward-thinking approach will help our highly skilled veterans gain the tools they need to succeed as they make the transition to civilian life.”

Peters also lauded Grand Valley's efforts.

“Our brave men and women in uniform have sacrificed so much in defense of our nation, and it is critical we support them as they transition back into civilian life,” Peters said. “This grant will build on existing efforts by Grand Valley to ensure our veterans have the skillset to be leaders in a 21st century economy, and I applaud Grand Valley for their commitment to our nation’s heroes.”

More information about the Veterans Upward Bound program is online at gvsu.edu/vub/.

Grand Valley has been repeatedly named a gold-level military friendly institution by the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency; details about the university's Veterans Network are online at gvsu.edu/veterans/.