LINCOLN — U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki visited the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on Thursday to promote higher education for U.S. military veterans.
Since the inception of the Post-9/11 GI Bill in 2009, $27.6 billion has gone toward the college expenses of about 980,000 veterans and their dependents, he said.
The first of those students will be completing four-year degrees in 2013, Shinseki said. The number of GI Bill graduates so far should be available in coming months.
UNL officials said 531 veterans or their dependents are enrolled there.
Shinseki said President Barack Obama sees educating veterans and returning them to the workforce as a key to rebuilding the middle class and placing the U.S. economy on a stronger footing.
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“They will return every dollar invested in them by contributing to the economy,” he said, adding that veterans bring with them the character, team-building skills, discipline and leadership developed while serving in the military. “Hire a veteran. They'll be amongst your very best employees,” he said.
Shinseki met with UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman to discuss UNL's efforts to serve veterans. Shinseki said he has been visiting campuses across the country on a mission to learn the best ways to support veterans “from the moment they step on campus to the moment they cross the graduation stage.”
UNL is among several Nebraska campuses, including the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Bellevue University, that are recognized as military-friendly. Creighton University also recently enhanced its assistance to veteran students.
Shinseki said he chose to visit UNL because of its military-friendly reputation and, he joked while pointing to his lapel, because he wanted a red “N” lapel pin. Shinseki, a retired U.S. Army general, became secretary of veterans affairs in January 2009.
He served as U.S. Army Chief of Staff from 1999 through 2003. A 1965 West Point graduate, he served two tours of duty in Vietnam.