Making the Grade: University helps military personnel with higher ed

Details about the veterans program and other courses at Brenau University are online at

Becoming a college student often requires adjustments, from the demands of course work to finding a place to fit in. That process can be particularly difficult for military veterans and active-duty personnel.

“It’s challenging to come out of the extremely rigid world of the military and into higher education, where almost the opposite is true,” said Rosanne Short, the Gainesville/East Campus Director of Military and Veteran services at Brenau University. “It can be overwhelming for someone transitioning back into the civilian world. There are lots of decisions to make, and they need more help to work through the system. Many do not even understand how drop/add works - that if you don’t like this course, you have a small window of opportunity to change that. They’re used to being in a world where everything is explained and laid out.”

Short works with the 441 veterans and active duty military at Brenau’s main Gainesville campus and six other regional campuses to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible.

“My position is to help them with things they may not know, like they get a military discount here. We keep up with the paperwork so they can get their funding. And sometimes I’m the one who has to remind them that this isn’t the military environment; it’s education. At the same time, these are students who are so motivated and self-disciplined that they raise the bar for other students.”

Brenau has initiated several programs aimed just at enrolled veterans, such as a 10 percent tuition reduction. Courses are available online, on campus or as a hybrid of the two to make attendance and completion as accessible as possible.

For the first time at the May commencement, veterans and active military were honored with special cords to wear with their gowns. The Brenau employment initiative gives top priority to qualified, veteran alumni who apply for jobs at the university. And the school has established relationships with career placement services that will work with veteran alums for free.

The combination of these programs earned Brenau the rank of No. 12 in the Southeast as compiled by U.S. News and World Report’s 2015 Best Schools for Veterans survey.

“The small things add up,” said Ed Schrader, Brenau’s president. “But we’re not a military school. People may wonder how we got here. It goes back to our board of trustees in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s that was populated with professional people who had gone to the second World War, and they intentionally wanted to help the next generation coming out of the military.”

One of those benefiting from that help is Tamara Harmon, a 31-year-old Dawsonville resident who left the Marine Corps in 2007, earned a bachelor’s in psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia and will receive a graduate degree in occupational therapy in December.

“I went straight out of high school into the Marine Corps, and when I was working on my undergrad, it was hard,” she said. “I was older than everyone else, and their priorities were different. By the time I got to Brenau, I was used to that, but I was also happy to find, as a veteran, I had more priority and more people to help me out. For instance, on Veterans Day, they sent me a package with thank-you letters - something I never got before. They’ve made it so easy for me, handling all the paperwork associated with the GI Bill. Everyone I’ve worked with has been pleasant and responsive. The transition here has been outstanding.”