DUNMORE, Pa. — Penn State Scranton’s continuing efforts to better serve the needs of its veteran and active-duty military student population has been recognized by the Pennsylvania National Guard Associations.
The campus was recently among 13 Pennsylvania colleges and universities named a PNGAS Guard-Friendly School by the organization, which is the only advocacy group dedicated to the needs of the state’s National Guard members and veterans.
With these recent additions, there are now 43 PNGAS Guard-Friendly Schools across the state, including a dozen Penn State campuses: Scranton, University Park, Abington, Beaver, Berks, Greater Allegheny, Harrisburg, Lehigh Valley, Mont Alto, Schuylkill, York and the University-affiliated Pennsylvania College of Technology. Penn State World Campus is also on the list.
To receive the designation, schools must meet or exceed 10 baseline criteria that foster a supportive learning environment for Pennsylvania Guard members and their families as they pursue their education.
“We are very confident the designation, PNGAS Guard-Friendly School, will keep producing immediate and long-term benefits and synergies for students, faculty, alumni, Guard members, veterans, their spouses, families, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and its economy,” said Kathleen Fabrizi, executive director of PNGAS and the Pennsylvania National Guard Foundation.
Stacy Shattuck, campus enrollment specialist and veteran certifying official, said the designation illustrates the campus’ ongoing commitment to providing first-class resources to student members of the armed forces.
“We are now on a list of schools that may be recommended to those service members that indicates to them that we recognize and appreciate what they do and have done, and that we are providing services that allow them to pursue their educational goals. This allows us greater recognition by Guard members as a place to be,” Shattuck said.
“And, as COVID-19 has impacted schools everywhere, this will provide us another avenue of recruitment and community engagement. While we always want opportunities to grow enrollment, PSU Scranton strives to be a contributing member of our local community in as many ways as possible," added Stattuck.
For many years, the state-funded Education Assistance Program (EAP) has been the No. 1 recruiting tool for the Pennsylvania National Guard, with Guard members receiving more than $281 million for school tuition. The EAP provides a tuition benefit equivalent to the yearly tuition rate set by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education so that Guard members can attend one of 488 Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency-approved schools.
To help optimize taxpayer dollars and increase the positive impacts of the EAP program for Guard recruitment and retention, PNGAS began collecting and sharing best practices among K-12 schools, colleges and trade schools in 2016. As a result of that initiative, many schools started improving their outreach, admissions, curriculums and overall relationships with Guard members and their families.
Then, in 2018, PNGAS formed its Education Action Council (EAC) to define and create an application for the designation of PNGAS Guard-Friendly Schools. Members of the council review applications and recommend approval decisions and improvement criteria for each applicant.
Shattuck has put up signs on campus to notify the campus community and visitors of the PNGAS designation. Meanwhile, she’s continuing to ramp up outreach efforts with local Guard members.
“We are working to build this relationship. Guard recruiters are always welcome on campus and to participate in our admission events,” she said. “I had the opportunity to give a presentation during one of their training weekends last year, and it was well-attended and received, so we are working to schedule another. And, we’re looking for more ways to work with and support not just the PNGAS members enrolled at PSU Scranton, but those in our local community.”
Among the Guard members currently enrolled at the campus is junior biology major Madison Macknosky. She cited a number of ways in which the campus community has served her needs, from professors allowing her to miss classes and receive extra time on assignments due to her monthly drill requirements, to her academic advisor, Assistant Professor of Biology Megan Van Etten, helping her get all of her military credits in place and putting her closer to graduation.
“And I am so thankful for Stacy Shattuck and the immense amount of work she does for myself and the rest of the military students on our campus. Every question or problem I have had, she has been quick to address it and help me through it,” Macknosky said. “Penn State Scranton has been more than helpful in providing me with the education and resources that I was looking for in a college campus.”