Registrar

Student veterans on campus. 

Photo Credit: Pearce Murphy | Daily Texan Staff

The student veteran and eligible dependent population at the University of Texas at Austin is one of many important groups on campus that the University serves. We recognize this group has faced many challenges prior to enrolling at UT, and that navigating access to state and federal education benefits should not be one of them.  

Since the inception of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and changes to the Hazlewood Act, a law that provides tuition exemptions to eligible veterans and their dependents, were made in 2009, there has been a significant increase in the number of eligible students seeking to use their benefits.   

UT-Austin has seen the effect of this increase; since 2009 the University has experienced an increase of more than 275 percent in Hazlewood exemption requests and a 22.5 percent increase in students requesting benefits provided by the GI Bill. 

According to the National Center for Veteran Analysis and Statistics, the Central Texas area has the fastest-growing population of veterans in the nation. In spring 2013 alone, the University had 1,494 individuals requesting benefits.

The increased number of eligible students has extended the time it takes for students to gain access to these benefits nationwide, as well as here on our campus. Recognizing this, we have launched efforts to improve the experience for our student veterans and dependents by bringing together all offices assisting this population on campus — the Office of the Registrar, the Office of Admissions, the Office of Accounting and Student Veteran Services — to review how other institutions are serving their student veterans and to implement a unified approach to address the realities facing such students on our campus.  

Additionally, we engaged students by collaborating with the Student Veteran Association, the official student veteran group on campus.  

Over the past year, through this collaboration with students and various offices on campus, the University has worked hard to expedite students’ access to the GI Bill and the Hazlewood exemption.  

The Office of the Registrar sought input from Student Veteran Services and the Student Veteran Association and developed strategies to improve the experience of student veterans and eligible dependents seeking to use their benefits. As a result of these collaborations, we enhanced the benefit sessions during orientations to assist students as soon as they arrive on campus. The Office of the Registrar also made a number of improvements to its internal processes and developed informational websites to better explain the benefits and how to access them. 

The university created a tuition coverage program that allowed for 79 percent of the students using federal education benefits used to secure their enrollment before they had paid their tuition. In doing so, the program kept qualified students from having to take action on their tuition costs before they had received their federal funding. The Office of the Registrar and Student Veteran Services have additionally worked together to ensure comprehensive office hours at locations across campus to provide easy access to expert guidance regarding benefits.  

The cooperation among various offices on campus and the Student Veteran Association has resulted in a student veteran experience far different from this time last year. We will continue to work together as a University to serve students in the most efficient way possible, evaluate our processes and seek strategic and innovative solutions to the challenges we may face.        

Benjamin Armstrong is the Director of Student Veteran Services at the University. Shelby Stanfield is a Vice Provost and the University Registrar. 

In an article published on Jan. 16, The Daily Texan reported that the University “will need to figure out how many student veterans there are” in order to track graduation rates among this population. The truth is that the University has information on every individual, past or present, who has made use of military educational benefits at UT.

It is widely believed that the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs sends employees to college campuses to assist student veterans and dependents with the transition to higher education. In reality, each university is responsible for providing that assistance to the student veterans. The Office of the Dean of Students officially launched Student Veteran Services (SVS) on Veterans Day in 2011 to address the needs of student veterans and dependents at the University. SVS has since worked closely with various administrative departments campus-wide to assist student veterans and dependents with accessing their education benefits and acclimating to student life. Both processes can be challenging.

SVS routinely collaborates with the Office of Admissions to identify incoming student veterans and dependents, and we continue to make improvements in tracking these students and collecting nationally relevant retention and completion data. SVS has also worked with New Student Services to develop orientation services specifically for student veterans. The vast majority of incoming student veterans transfer to UT-Austin from schools all over the country with widely varying transfer requirements. Partnering with admissions and orientation staff has allowed SVS to begin tracking each student veteran as soon as he or she accepts admission to the University. We have data on every student who has ever utilized veteran education benefits at UT-Austin, which benefits were used and when and whether or not the student using the benefit was a veteran or a dependent of a veteran. What we cannot track are student veterans who do not use benefits or do not self identify. 

Though the Department of Veterans Affairs provides many benefits to student veterans and dependents, frequent case backlogs and understaffing can delay receipt or disbursement of funds. To solve this problem, Student Veteran Services, since registration period in the fall semester, has started working with Student Accounts Receivable to develop a shelter program to ensure that student veteran and dependent course registration is secured until state or federal educational benefits can be applied to outstanding tuition or fees.  

The past four years have brought exponential growth in the number of student veterans and dependents using education benefits at UT. Student Veteran Services and the Office of the Registrar have worked to address the rapidly increasing workload and increase efficiency in the student veteran and dependent-benefits certification process. The Office of the Registrar has trained counselors to specialize in state and federal education benefit requests and certification, and has created new avenues for student veterans and dependents to submit or modify benefits claims. These remedies have streamlined the previously 4–6 week benefits certification process down to approximately 14 days.  

Together, Student Veteran Services, the Office of the Registrar, the Office of Admissions, Student Accounts Receivable and New Student Services are also making it easier for UT-Austin to track and collect relevant information about student veteran graduation rates. SVS is developing a plan to collect historical and current enrollment information in order to generate retention and graduation data regarding student veterans. 

The article, “Gathering higher education data on student veterans proves difficult,” quotes only student veterans. No attempt was made to interview University staff from any of the many departments that assist veterans and their dependents. Had any time been taken to gather information from a broad range of sources, the reporter would have discovered that the intricate network that exists campus-wide to support this population also keeps copious records. In short, the story would have been accurate.  

Although there are issues that can create barriers to student success, our efforts to resolve them have been successful thanks to the dedication and diligence shown by the staff involved in serving student veterans and dependents. SVS is proud of the work that has been done to find solutions and improve the ways in which the university meets the needs of student veterans and dependents. 

Armstrong is the Student Veteran Services Coordinator.In an article published on Jan. 16, The Daily Texan reported that the University “will need to figure out how many student veterans there are” in order to track graduation rates among this population. The truth is that the University has information on every individual, past or present, who has made use of military educational benefits at UT.

It is widely believed that the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs sends employees to college campuses to assist student veterans and dependents with the transition to higher education. In reality, each university is responsible for providing that assistance to the student veterans. The Office of the Dean of Students officially launched Student Veteran Services (SVS) on Veterans Day in 2011 to address the needs of student veterans and dependents at the University. SVS has since worked closely with various administrative departments campus-wide to assist student veterans and dependents with accessing their education benefits and acclimating to student life. Both processes can be challenging.

SVS routinely collaborates with the Office of Admissions to identify incoming student veterans and dependents, and we continue to make improvements in tracking these students and collecting nationally relevant retention and completion data. SVS has also worked with New Student Services to develop orientation services specifically for student veterans. The vast majority of incoming student veterans transfer to UT-Austin from schools all over the country with widely varying transfer requirements. Partnering with admissions and orientation staff has allowed SVS to begin tracking each student veteran as soon as he or she accepts admission to the University. We have data on every student who has ever utilized veteran education benefits at UT-Austin, which benefits were used and when and whether or not the student using the benefit was a veteran or a dependent of a veteran. What we cannot track are student veterans who do not use benefits or do not self identify. 

Though the Department of Veterans Affairs provides many benefits to student veterans and dependents, frequent case backlogs and understaffing can delay receipt or disbursement of funds. To solve this problem, Student Veteran Services, since registration period in the fall semester, has started working with Student Accounts Receivable to develop a shelter program to ensure that student veteran and dependent course registration is secured until state or federal educational benefits can be applied to outstanding tuition or fees.  

The past four years have brought exponential growth in the number of student veterans and dependents using education benefits at UT. Student Veteran Services and the Office of the Registrar have worked to address the rapidly increasing workload and increase efficiency in the student veteran and dependent-benefits certification process. The Office of the Registrar has trained counselors to specialize in state and federal education benefit requests and certification, and has created new avenues for student veterans and dependents to submit or modify benefits claims. These remedies have streamlined the previously 4–6 week benefits certification process down to approximately 14 days.  

Together, Student Veteran Services, the Office of the Registrar, the Office of Admissions, Student Accounts Receivable and New Student Services are also making it easier for UT-Austin to track and collect relevant information about student veteran graduation rates. SVS is developing a plan to collect historical and current enrollment information in order to generate retention and graduation data regarding student veterans. 

The article, “Gathering higher education data on student veterans proves difficult,” quotes only student veterans. No attempt was made to interview University staff from any of the many departments that assist veterans and their dependents. Had any time been taken to gather information from a broad range of sources, the reporter would have discovered that the intricate network that exists campus-wide to support this population also keeps copious records. In short, the story would have been accurate.  

Although there are issues that can create barriers to student success, our efforts to resolve them have been successful thanks to the dedication and diligence shown by the staff involved in serving student veterans and dependents. SVS is proud of the work that has been done to find solutions and improve the ways in which the university meets the needs of student veterans and dependents. 

Armstrong is the Student Veteran Services Coordinator.

One would be hard-pressed to find anyone advocating against doing everything possible for the veterans of our nation’s two most recent wars. Most Americans recognize the great adversity those veterans face today. The unfortunate reality is that veterans’ needs are not being met by the entities that are supposed to work on their behalf. One of these is the Registrar’s Office here at the University of Texas at Austin.

In order for student veterans to receive the federal and state benefits promised to them by the Veterans Administration, the University of Texas must first certify the eligibility of their classes. That requirement is currently the largest road block preventing student veterans from accessing their education benefits, which cover tuition, books and a monthly stipend for housing.

Since the war in Iraq has ended and as the conflict in Afghanistan comes to a close, the number of veterans seeking educational opportunities has greatly increased. At UT’s veterans’ banquet last year, a guest speaker from the Student Veterans of America spoke about the exponential growth in veteran enrollment  across the nation. Despite this trend, UT has failed to hire an adequate number of Registrar personnel to handle the growing burden class certification presents.

The challenges student veterans face in the certification process include complex requirements, uncertainty, frequent delays and lost paperwork. My own paperwork for the summer semester was lost and my paperwork for the fall semester has only just been certified after five months. From my discussions with personnel within the Registrar, I know out of the roughly 750 individuals using VA benefits, only about 150 were certified as of the third week of classes. Veterans are a distinct group within the university in that none of us are claimed as dependents. Many students, if they encounter delays with financial aid, can call on parents to provide financial assistance. Veterans, on the other hand, have gone out into the world, worked full time jobs, paid taxes and become self-sufficient. We generally do not have the luxury of hiding under our parents’ financial umbrella. We pay for our educations with VA benefits and savings from our time in the military, and delays in certification mean that we must cover our tuition out of pocket. I have been required to sell shares of my retirement funds to cover costs that were supposed to be paid by federal and state programs. Delays like these create financial burdens for veterans and reduce the effectiveness of programs designed to support their transition into civilian life.

I am not accusing the Registrar’s Office of malicious intent; indeed my observation has been that they are committed to doing all they can to aid student veterans. Rather, it seems that they’re understaffed and unequipped to handle veterans’ needs and the certification process. If UT is committed to serving student veterans’ needs, they need to hire more personnel and streamline the certification process.
Ultimately what is really required is a paradigm shift in the way UT views veteran benefits. Student veterans do not regard these VA programs as “benefits” but rather payment for services rendered. They were guaranteed in our enlistment contracts and many of us paid into the system during our military service. These benefits should be recognized as a paycheck veterans earned for their sacrifices. When they are recognized as such, the obstacles that UT has put in veterans’ way are clearly inexcusable. If UT President William Powers, Jr. went months without salary, there would be administrative hell to pay, but for the roughly 700 student veterans on campus it is allowed to happen semester after semester.

Ollar is an economics senior from Midlothian, Texas and the president of the UT Student Veterans Association.

Photo Credit: Holly Hansel | Daily Texan Staff

Registration — the word alone is enough to induce a splitting headache in some students, along with the hassles, deadlines and frustratingly closed classes that come along with the process. Although modern technology has certainly removed some of these difficulties, at the end of every semester, students are still faced with the impending battle of getting into their desired classes.

Fortunately, registration doesn’t necessarily have to be a cut-throat battle royale; with this survival guide for what is perhaps the most dreaded two weeks of the spring, this year’s registration may end without tears and bloodshed.

One of the most frequently pondered questions amongst students is the order in which registration times are decided — when you have a friend of the same major or last name letter registering a week before you, the process can often come across as exasperatingly random.

“There is an alpha breakdown,” said Nancy Sutherland, history and liberal arts advisor. “It is based on a simple, yet secret formula created by a registrar sometime in the last century.”

While last name and class year are important factors, the Registrar’s office rotates the order of the names so students whose last name begins with “A” don’t always get to register first in their class.

Similarly, there are frequent misunderstandings when it comes to the specific required courses available for students. For example, unless you want to get certified to teach or you plan to transfer to another university, you can take any two different classes in the approved list of American history core courses – even upper-division ones, according to Sutherland.

The same goes for classes like GOV 312, in which many students feel tied down to taking a specific subject matter.

“Many students that I have advised do not know that the second required Government course, GOV 312L, has topics,” said Linda Mayhew, advising coordinator for the Liberal Arts Honors and Humanities programs. “This gives you a chance to select a topic that really interests you.”

However, sometimes class availability can get a bit trickier. Many students tend to believe that professors have the final say in regards to their class roster and that students can always get their permission to add a class that’s either full or restricted.

“Actually, departments can override faculty preferences,” said Jackie Dana, sociology undergraduate advisor. “We often have to tell students ‘No’ even after they get a written note because we use the waitlist system and check prerequisites.”

In terms of general advice, advisors suggest keeping an eye on your prerequisites and taking advantage of waitlists. Although being last on a long waitlist may appear to be a depressing prospect, with the large number of people who change classes during the add/drop period, it’s not the end of the world, especially for a larger lecture class. However, it also helps to have a backup class just in case.

“It’s also important to realize that sometimes required classes really do max out and advisors don’t always have the authority to add additional students,” Dana said. “We don’t intentionally keep people from graduating.”

And while it may seem a bit obvious, many students aren’t aware of the extended course descriptions available on some departments’ websites.

While the Registrar provides a general overview of what a class entails, course descriptions on the pages of individual departments often offer a more insightful look at what specific classes have to offer.

For example, the English department lists the required readings for the semester alongside a breakdown of professor’s individual grading, and the journalism department allows access to past and present undergraduate course syllabi.

“If you can’t get into a class you need or just really, really want, be sure to ask an advisor for assistance,” Dana said. “But don’t make demands.”

For Sutherland, the number one tip to being prepared for registration is to talk to your advisers ... except during actual registration days. She also advises awareness of the catalog for your major, as each catalog has very different degree requirements, flags and CORE approved courses.

“Advisors are here year-round. Make a plan of action to graduate — even if you change your mind a little,” Sutherland said. “You can still go to advising during registration, but it will just be to touch base or to check on secrets advisors might know, so you won’t be as stressed.”

Printed on Thursday, April 19, 2012 as: Helpful tips for surviving registration

The University of Texas graduated about 3,100 students during fall commencement on Saturday and Sunday, including 2,124 undergraduates, 740 master’s degrees students, 221 doctoral students and 15 law students. (Photo courtesy of Sam Gabrieliants)

Thousands of Longhorns donned their caps and gowns this weekend to celebrate graduation, marking the end of their time at the University.

About 3,100 students graduated this semester, including 2,124 undergraduates, 740 students who received master’s degrees, 221 doctoral students and 15 law students, according to the Office of the Registrar.

Fall commencement ceremonies took place on Saturday and Sunday with each college holding separate convocations. In addition, Texas Exes hosted a commencement weekend open house for the recent graduates to come and toast to their degrees on Saturday, called The Great Texas Exit.

For many graduates, this marks the time where they will try to find work and begin their career, which may prove difficult for some in the current economy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate of Texas is 8.4 percent, below the current national rate of 9 percent. The University offers career services to graduates to assist in deciding what to do after graduation.

Printed on Monday, December 5th, 2011 as: New year, new grads

Undergraduate students will now be allowed to drop a single class past the deadline to withdraw once during their college career without suffering academic penalty, according to a document provided by the registrar’s office.

The new “One Time Exception” provision means that undergraduate students who may not have urgent, substantiated or nonacademic reasons such as illness can withdraw past the mid-semester deadline providing they do so before the last day of class and have not yet received a final grade for the course.

The drop appears on the student’s academic record as the symbol “Q,” denoting that the course was discontinued without academic penalty and counts toward the six-drop limit available to undergraduate students, according to the document. Sophomores, juniors and seniors will only be allowed to request an OTE drop if their average in the class is a D+ or lower.

Livy Knox, senior academic adviser in the Cockrell School of Engineering, said there are many understandable situations in which an OTE drop might be necessary.

“Sometimes, students are overconfident picking courses, and maybe should have started [further] back in a sequence, and they didn’t realize until they get that second midterm back,” Knox said. “For first semester students, they start out in a major and don’t know what it is until they get into it, and they want out of the class.”

Knox said students in the engineering school would not be allowed to request an OTE drop before discussing their situation with an academic adviser.

“We’re going to sit down with a student no matter what and see what their situation is,” Knox said. “If it’s non-academic, we can refer them to support services such as a healthcare provider or disability services.”

Finance sophomore Scott Hickle said he believes in second chances for students looking to maintain a high GPA.

“A high GPA is probably one of the top three things graduate schools look at, and it’s essentially an indicator of how well you can be trained how good you are at learning,“ Hickle said. “If you’re doing really well in a course but you bomb an important midterm, it’s like a one-off get-out-of-jail-free card. My only concern would be that it might cause grade inflation, but that seems unlikely.”

The OTE will not be available to students in the Graduate School, the College of Pharmacy, the LBJ School of Public Affairs, the School of Law or the School of Information. A spokesperson from the registrar’s office was unavailable to comment Wednesday.

Published on Thursday, November 10, 2011 as: Undergrads now allowed to drop one course after official deadline