Although students veterans receive some support from the University of Oregon, the veteran community is advocating to fund more resources to fill in the gaps. According to Jason Pillado, the student veteran career advisor, “student veterans are not a targeted demographic,” they are a large minority that is not supported enough.
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Advocacy for Student Veterans
The veteran community is advocating to fund more accessible housing and resources for student veterans because they believe the University of Oregon is not providing enough support.
Jason Pillado, the veteran student career advisor, explained that a number of veterans who choose to come to Oregon are unaware of the lack of resources for veterans. “Nine out of 10 veterans scramble to find a place to live,” he said. “They start to struggle with their studies because of housing and end up sleeping in their cars or couch surfing.”
Pillado said that student veterans are faced with the difficulty of finding a home because the housing allowance they receive is insufficient to cover rent in the city of Eugene.
Eugene is not an affordable place to live, especially for veterans. The housing allowance they receive is approximately $1,400 a month or less and many are not able to work due to school, injuries or family situations.
When veterans start school at the University of Oregon, they have the option to self-identify as a veteran. This gives them the opportunity to connect with the veteran community; however, it is ultimately up to the veterans to reach out.
There are 10 peer advisors who offer help and support for veterans. However, not many veterans are willing to discuss their situation or seek help. According to Trent Goodman, the peer advisor for veterans education (PAVE), there is a community ready to assist, but many veterans do not respond and the advisors are left uninformed of their conditions.
“The strength of a veteran goes a long way,” Pillado said. “Veterans come to school to try and succeed on their own because it becomes their new mission – they don’t want to ask for help.”
Pillado stated that not all student veterans experience hardship and many have been successful in receiving a degree; however, they do struggle financially. There is a small percentage of veterans who fall below the poverty line and are faced with making decisions between housing, food or school.
The university claims that money is a major issue within the veteran program, but veteran center coordinator Samantha Roberts, believes there’s a lack of funding due to inconsistent leadership. “We do not live in a political climate that puts veterans first,” Roberts said.
The veteran center receives an allotment of funding from the university, but the majority of this money comes from grants Roberts applies for. The Associated Students of University of Oregon (ASUO), also provides the veteran center with $15,000 a year, which is less than other clubs on campus.
Providing accessible housing for student veterans is a priority for Roberts and Pillado. Starting a veteran co-ed fraternity has become a potential next step for the veteran program. A fraternity will help raise money and generate funds for the veteran community.
Veterans have the ability and skill set to succeed in school with or without support from the university. “Veterans are stubborn,” Pillado said. “They will find a way to finish school but the university should find the way for them.”