MURRAY, Ky -
Bridging the gap between military and civilian life, Murray State University is gathering donations for its first scholarship specifically for veteran students.
Operation Graduation will be available starting in the fall of 2016. It'll help veterans offset the cost of textbooks. Assistant Registrar for Veterans Affairs Chris Jeter said it's needed because the GI Bill rarely covers all the costs of college.
MSU is currently ranked sixth on U.S. News and World Report's Best Colleges for Veterans ranking for the south. It has also been ranked by Victory Media and GI Jobs as a Military Friendly School every year since 2011.
But what makes a military friendly school? Jeter said having things like a veterans affairs office or student organization and a place on campus just for veterans helps.
"We now have a student veterans' organization on campus. We have a veteran student lounge space. It's kind of off the beaten path, specifically for veterans," Jeter said.
Jeter deals with veteran students' paperwork to cover tuition, but he also serves as a liaison between other campus and learning services.
"Sometimes we have to coordinate directly with instructors and say, 'This student has experienced these things in class, or the reason why this student sits in the corner in the back is so he can see the exit and everyone in the classroom,'" Jeter said .
He said military students aren't like your typical college student.
"Most of them come to school with obligations and things like family and responsibilities," Jeter said.
MSU student Jeriel Clark deployed to Iraq in 2011 and is in the National Guard.
"As far as I'm concerned, [Murray State] helps its students get commingled back into real life," Clark said.
He said Jeter has always been very helpful with anything he needs in veteran affairs. That is what Jeter and the rest of those involved do —make sure that 4 percent of Murray's student population gets the help it may need to stay in school.
The University of Tennessee at Martin, Southeast Missouri State, and Southern Illinois University have similar veteran and military services for students.