The University of Maryland's SGA voted 25-0, with one abstention, to endorse priority class registration for veteran students and create a platform for students to air concerns with representatives on Wednesday night.
More than 1,200 students on the campus are veterans, and because many of them are seeking their education through the GI bill, they have pressing scheduling needs, Student Government Association President AJ Pruitt said.
"They are older, a lot of them have families, and they can't have a job while they're trying to complete their degree," Pruitt said. "Because [the GI Bill] only provides benefits for up to 36 months, they have to finish their degree in three years … and because a lot of them are in specialized and highly sequential programs, they don't have the luxury of not being able to register for 'that' class when they need it."
The association aims to take this bill before administration in time for veteran students to have priority registration this summer.
The push for helping veteran students register early for the classes they need was nearly tabled in an effort to tweak the details of the bill for an additional week, but after more than 30 minutes of debate, the SGA chose to act with the summer term in mind.
SGA President AJ Pruitt said this university currently provides priority class registration for student athletes and students with Accessibility and Disability or Title IX accommodations. Otherwise, students' registration dates are based on their academic credit level.
Six students testified in front of the SGA in favor of adding veterans to the list of student groups who get to choose their classes first.
Dawn Fedorka, a senior psychology major and one of the Terp Vets members who presented to the association, said she would be graduating this spring, but wanted this legacy to remain for other student veterans.
"Most veterans that I interact with, and including myself, at the veterans center here on campus — we have families, we have commutes, we have established careers that continue to close the window of opportunity for scheduling in our education," Fedorka said. "As a student with a family member who has special needs, that closes it even further."
Michael Rennie, the president of Terp Vets, said that often, veteran students are "indoctrinated by their military service not to ask for help," but that priority registration could even be the deciding factor in veterans choosing whether to attend this university or another.
"I've been given everything because of this school," said Rennie, a junior aerospace engineering major. "And when I hear that … it tears me to pieces."
This university's administration announced last semester that veterans would be able to apply for free, voiding the usual $75 fee.
The SGA also voted to give students a system to turn to with one-time problems rather than ongoing policy matters.
Concerns will now be routed through a form to appropriate representatives, who will use their connections to provide relief.
Pruitt said he helps between 75 and 100 students per year with grading policies, food issues with the dining halls, mold sightings and those types of concerns.
"This is a way to try and work harder for them and sort of show people that we are there," Pruitt said, "not only to represent you when it comes to specific large policy goals and big decisions, but also represent you when you, the individual, need help with something."
The platform is scheduled to launch later this semester and will be managed by Bryce Iapicca, a senior business management major and SGA's Deputy Chief of Staff.
He said rolling out new programs always poses challenges, but he thought the increase in communication would benefit both the student body and the SGA.
"Letting people know that these things are out there … and they can actually benefit from them will be one of the biggest challenges," Iapicca said. "The more student input we have, the better decisions we can make, the better bills we can put together and the better initiatives we can start working on."