The University of Kansas was ranked the ninth best public university in the nation for veterans and the first in Kansas in the Military Times' Best for Vets: Colleges 2020 survey.
Out of all four-year institutions, the University ranks 11th.
The survey is based on universities’ "policies related to military and veteran students, academic outcomes, military-supportive cultures and other factors," according to the Military Times.
“KU provided plenty of resources that I’ve never seen in other [universities],” said junior Scott Pao, a Navy veteran and president of KU Student Veterans of America.
One of the largest resources keeping the University in the top-10 public school ranking is the Lt. Gen. William K. Jones Military-Affiliated Student Center, said April Blackmon Strange, who is the director of the center.
The center has a vocational rehabilitation counselor and a veteran services representative on staff to help veterans apply for benefits, such as healthcare, Blackmon Strange said.
“So [we have] resources right here instead of having them have to go to Topeka or somewhere else in town for some of those basic things around education and other benefits,” Blackmon Strange said.
Pao said during his first year at the University he felt separated from the general student population, and he did not participate in any activities because he was a nontraditional student. However, when he became involved with the military-affiliated student center, his social life grew tremendously, he said
“Feeling so accepted and understood, I have now made it my mission to ensure other students feel the same way I do,” Pao said.
Additionally, Blackmon Strange said the long-running KU Student Veterans of America student organization contributes to the ranking for its service activities and community building.
“My best experience at KU is being part of a veteran organization that provides support and camaraderie to students that feel that they don’t fit in,” Pao said.
In 2015, the University received the 47th ranking on the Best for Vets list, but it jumped to 10th in 2016. The past two years, the University has been at fifth but then dropped to 11th this year, though it is ninth among public universities.
Despite the drop, multiple student veterans believe the University should actually receive a higher ranking.
“I don’t agree that we’re the ninth best — I think KU should be in the top third,” said senior Mike Ellis, who served in the U.S. Navy for four years and is currently studying marketing. “KU does a great job taking care of their veterans.”
Senior Blake Warner, who served four years in the Marines as a sniper and is currently studying business administration, said he agrees. Warner works as a Peer Advisor for Veteran Education (PAVE) leader, where he has worked with veterans from the University as well as other universities.
“KU shines brightest when [it] comes to helping military-affiliated students and veterans succeed,” Warner said. “KU’s military-affiliated community goes beyond school, as we strive to help each other succeed at home, too. With students who are married and have children, we seek to provide a community for their families to enjoy as well.”
Blackmon Strange said she believes the University is a great school for veterans, and the attitude the students have towards the ranking is wonderful.
“There are a lot of things that we don’t have control over that play into those rankings, but I think that as long as everyone feels that it’s a top school when they’re here and going to that, that makes me happy because that means that we’re doing the right thing for our students,” Blackmon Strange said.