SIU is top-ranked university for vets


Reporter - Kathryn DiGisi

CARBONDALE, Ill. - Thousands of military veterans have found a home at Southern Illinois University over the years and now SIU is being recognized for it.

Two separate magazines ranked SIU as one of the best university's for veterans.

U.S. News and World Report ranked the university 46th in the nation.

Military Times Edge magazine ranked SIU 8th in the nation out of 86 four-year institutions.

Every day after class, 12-year combat veteran Steve Fink meets a fellow service member and classmate for a cup of coffee.

He says the community of veterans on campus is tight-knit.

"We can usually spot each the way we walk or the backpack or something," said Fink.

The conversation quickly turned to their time spent oversees.

"I kind of miss hearing helicopters all the time," said Fink.

A year and a half ago, the VA in Marion teamed up with the university and created an organization called VITAL: Veteran's Integration to Academic Leadership.

VA supervisor Tom Kadela says this program gives veteran students advantages other schools do not.

It's mission is two-fold.

"To make sure the veterans remain in school and graduate with as a high of a GPA as we can help, and the second thing is to educate the faculty and staff on understanding military culture," said Kadela.

Fink told Local 6 the program has made his transition much smoother.

Fink says he did not initially choose SIU because of their veteran's programs, now he cannot imagine himself anywhere else.

"Yeah, I'm definitely happy here at SIU," said Fink.

Other schools recognized among the elite in our four-state region are the University of Louisville, the University of Tennessee, the University of Missouri, St. Louis University and Maryville University of St. Louis.