MONT ALTO, Pa. — When it comes to providing veterans with support through college and beyond, Penn State Mont Alto earned a gold medal.
The institution of higher learning was awarded gold distinction as a 2020-21 Military Friendly School by the organization Viqtory. Now in its 19th year, the list of designees — announced Feb. 11 — provides a comprehensive guide for veterans and their families using data from federal agencies, veteran students and survey information from participating organizations.
To earn the gold, Penn State Mont Alto had to score within 10% of the 10th-ranked school in the category. The ratings are assessed through the evaluation of public data about the institution and information gathered through a free survey that is offered annually to more than 8,800 institutions across the nation. Survey responses are weighted according to military student support and retention; graduation and career outcomes; financial aid and loan repayment; culture and commitment; admissions and orientation; and academic policies and compliance.
“Penn State Mont Alto staff and faculty strive daily to support our veterans and their dependents," said Lisa D. DeGregorio, campus certifying official/veterans affairs coordinator. "We are constantly looking for new initiatives and ways to support our veteran population. The Gold Award is one way of showing we are here for them from the start of their education to their graduation.”
DeGregorio collaborated with other departments on campus to gather information for the application. When asked why Penn State Mont Alto is an excellent choice for veterans and those currently serving in the military, she wrote in the application, “We are Penn State, and because of that, we can provide veteran students with access to leading faculty, a variety of majors and degree options, sports, concerts, cultural events, one of the largest alumni associations in the nation, and, most important, a Penn State degree.”
Other programs offered for veterans include a welcome event at the beginning of a semester; a Veterans Day ceremony; staff and faculty mentor program; and military appreciation events. Each new veteran student is provided with a Penn State Mont Alto challenge coin when coming to the school and receives a military honor cord at graduation.
There is an active Student Veterans Association on campus, as well as a Veterans Center. At the center, Veterans Affairs work-study students assist with events and initiatives, provide tours and peer-to-peer support. A full-time counselor is available for unlimited visits, and crisis resources are offered around the clock. A career counselor helps veterans craft résumés, set up internships and assist with job placement.
A group of veterans recently collaborated to start a physical-education program at 6 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. In addition, one of the Penn State Mont Alto faculty members, who is also a veteran mentor, recently donated money to use for social gatherings, supplies and items to welcome new students who served in the U.S. armed forces.
At the annual academic and leadership awards ceremony, an outstanding veteran is recognized after being nominated by faculty and staff.
“Our veteran student population is a vital contributor to our campus. Their unique experiences allow them to provide leadership and positive contributions in the classroom. Their classmates often look to them for guidance," said DeGregorio.
More than 1,000 schools participated in the 2020-21 survey, and 625 schools were deemed military-friendly at various levels. The "Military Friendly" designation is part of the military ratings division of Viqtory, a service-disabled, veteran-owned business that connects the military community to civilian employment, educational and entrepreneurial opportunities. It rates companies and colleges on their programs to recruit and retain military veterans as employees and students.
Public data sources are used to check that institutions have federal programs in operation and good standing. At Penn State Mont Alto, the following such offerings are in place:
- Yellow Ribbon GI education enhancement program (a provision of the post-9/11 GI Bill)
- Official commitment to the Eight Keys to Veterans’ Success
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Principles of Excellence
- Federal financial aid shopping sheet
- Funding for armed forces tuition assistance
- U.S. Department of Defense Voluntary Education Partnership Memorandum of Understanding for tuition assistance
The 2020-21 Military Friendly Schools list will be published in the May issue of G.I. Jobs magazine. The list also can be found at militaryfriendly.com. More information on veteran services offered through Penn State Mont Alto can found at https://montalto.psu.edu/military-friendly/news.