UNF receives third nationwide award


UNF has been recognized as one of the best in the Southeast, one of the best in value and is now one of the most military-friendly institutions in the country.

“We were just recognized on the Military Friendly Schools list put out by G.I. Jobs magazine [Aug. 17], but there is no real accreditation stating what that means,” said Jim Owen, director of One Stop Student Services.

UNF — along with 36 other Florida institutions including, Jacksonville schools Jones College, JU and Florida State College of Jacksonville — were four out of 1,000 schools in the nation inducted to the list, but some are questioning what the criteria really is for such an induction.

“There are other organizations, such as KMI Media Group, that are more reputable,” Owen said. “For example, KMI Media Group would be more like journalism’s U.S. News and World Report of the military magazine business.”

Although the reputability of G.I. Jobs magazine is uncertain, there was a survey sent out that Director of Admissions John Yancey and Owen answered, Owen said.

The questions on the survey sent out to universities examined all facets of military friendliness in each institution.

There were questions regarding the tuition discounts for active duty military personnel and dependants, whether or not ACE credit is given for military training, the schools ability to provide counseling for veterans and the college’s ROTC program, and many more.

Forty-five percent of a school’s score was determined by attributes such as whether the school was Veteran Affairs approved, whether they accepted the Montgomery GI Bill or the Post-Sept. 11 GI Bill and certain CLEP tests, said Mathew Travelek, senior editor of GI Jobs magazine.

Thirty-five percent of the final grade included the different types of financial aid the institution offers for service members and veterans, Travelek said.

The other 20 percent was based on the college’s success in recruiting military students, which was based on the number of military students the institution has enrolled, Travelek said.

These surveys were sent out to as many schools as possible, around 7,000 schools nationwide, he said.

After an academic advisory committee, established by GI Jobs to assess the schools, reviewed the submitted surveys, 1,000 schools were selected.

Benefits of a military environment

Even though UNF is not exactly the Naval Academy, there are many areas where UNF excels.

Being a hub for military activity, the many military bases in the surrounding city of Jacksonville benefited UNF.

“There are seven military bases in the Jacksonville metro area that lead to a huge military population,” Owen said. “We are immersed in the military environment, and that could be a reason why we were chosen.”

The generous financial breaks and credit hour substitutes that the university presents to military students could also be what marched UNF past the competition.

“Any active duty military personnel can qualify as Florida residents for tuition purposes as long as they are within 50 miles of the university,” Owen said. “We also accept military training as open elective transfer credit hours.”

In addition, the university is working on a program that will customize more services to accommodate military students.

“Student Affairs is implementing the Student Affairs Ad Hoc Task Force on Veterans,” said Mauricio Gonzalez, vice president of student affairs.

This program will improve special services for military students and their dependants such as counseling and grants, Owen said.

“We are anticipating a flood of veterans coming back to school, and we want to have these services developed when they get here,” Owen said. “The task force program is working on services such as special counseling for military students coming back from Iraq and new grant proposals such as the Florida Braive Fund.”

Ultimately, the task force is targeting veterans, but the services will be available for all students, Owen said.

This military-friendly distinction will greatly benefit UNF in a city booming with military involvement.

“One in six people in the Jacksonville area are somehow affiliated with the military, whether they are active duty, service members, veterans or civilians working on a base,” Owen said. “This award will give us a better reputation among veterans and their dependants.”

Being named to the 2010 Military Friendly Schools list will showcase UNF on a national level as well.

“Being listed in the 2010 Guide to Military Friendly Schools will bring greater visibility for UNF among military personnel throughout the nation, in addition to the attention that we already enjoy currently among active-duty personnel in the Jacksonville area,” Gonzalez said.