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Crist among those to speak at USF about GI Bill

This is the topic that’s bringing prominent government leaders to USF: how to help student veterans transition from service to the classroom through the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

At the Uniforms to Mortarboards conference, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki’s will make a keynote address at 12:30 p.m Friday in the Marshall Student Center (MSC). Gov. Charlie Crist will also be speaking at the conference.

Shinseki, an adviser to President Barack Obama, will discuss issues surrounding the GI Bill.

“Shinseki is just out there doing all of these things for veterans, and to have him come to (USF) is super phenomenal,” said Meredith Nickles, assistant director for USF Veterans Services. “He’s in the president’s cabinet.”

The GI Bill, which was enacted Aug. 1, offers assistance to student veterans by helping pay tuition and fees. It’s based on the amount of service people contributed post 9/11, Nickles said.

Student veterans can also receive a housing allowance. The main issue, however, is that the bill doesn’t cover all fees.

“It just depends on who you are,” she said. “It’s very complicated; that’s why there’s a session on it.”

The conference is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Shinseki’s speech in the MSC Ballroom during a luncheon will focus on the importance of the GI Bill and the opportunity it provides for veterans to pursue their education, said Tracy Tyree, associate vice president of Student Affairs.

Shinseki will also discuss the importance for colleges and universities to be prepared and welcoming and provide environments that will help student veterans be successful.

“This is not just about USF or a state university,” Nickles said. “All colleges in Florida have been invited to this, so it’s going to impact community colleges, private universities, and state universities.”

The conference’s purpose is for Florida schools to have a more “comprehensive conversation as to what everyone’s role is on a college campus to help the environment be more veteran friendly,” Tyree said.

She said three panels will be held throughout the day, including a panel of student veterans from USF, the University of Florida, St. Petersburg College, Hillsborough Community College, St. Leo University and Pasco-Hernando Community College.

Those students will discuss what they think needs to be addressed in the bill – in terms of institutional response to returning veterans, Nickles said.

Workshops will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., where attendees can discuss a range of topics, including ways to advise student veterans in accordance to the funds allotted to them from the GI Bill and how to understand those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, Tyree said.