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Lipscomb University named top in Tennessee, No. 13 in nation for student veterans by Military Times

Kim Chaudoin | 

student talking to person in military uniform

Lipscomb University has been named one of the top universities in the nation and the top in Tennessee by Military Times in its Best for Vets: Colleges 2019 rankings.

Lipscomb University is ranked No. 13 in the country in the 2019 ranking and is among the top institutions in the nation for veteran and military student service and rates of academic achievement.  For the rankings Military Times analyzes a variety of data including 2017 enrollment data, veterans center and services, policy agreements, GI Bill gap coverage, student-to-faculty ratio, accreditation, retention rate, graduation rate and student loan default rate.

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Also included in the top 15 universities in the country are Rutgers, the University of Kansas, Syracuse University, Colorado State University and the University of Central Oklahoma among others. Lipscomb is also the highest-ranked university in Tennessee, with Middle Tennessee State University ranked 81 and the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga ranked 133.

Lipscomb has the fifth-highest graduation rate for veteran students in the nation with an 89 percent graduation rate. The retention rate for veteran students is 85 percent, which has increased from a 42 percent rate three years ago.

“This recognition is a way to measure the impact the services and educational experience that we offer to veterans and their dependents, and we are only as successful as our product — our students,” said Chad Staggs, director of veteran services at Lipscomb University. “It’s also a measure of the strategic focus we have had on retention — building a campus community that serves the needs of these students — and on seeing our students through to graduation and helping them reach their educational goals. To me that’s the real significance of this recognition.”

Staggs credits the increase in retention and graduation percentages to increased faculty engagement.

“Our students are engaged with their professors and the faculty have developed relationships with these students. They engage them and see how they can make their educational experience at Lipscomb one that meets their needs and helps them achieve their academic goals,” said Staggs. “We have a student-to-faculty ratio that is small, which makes Lipscomb unique and fosters relationships between faculty and students.”

Staggs said another factor that makes Lipscomb’s program unique is its robust offerings of services for veterans and their dependents. The Lipscomb Office of Veteran Services has a staff of six including Staggs along with Jimmie Handley, program and outreach coordinator; Billie Scroggins, veterans certifying official; Tom Seals, veterans chaplain; Angela Groennert, military and family mental health counselor; and Sam Lynn, transfer credentials specialist. There is also a Student Veteran Resource Center on campus, a Campus Veterans Organization, a university counseling center and an Academic Success Center among other resources on campus for student veterans.  

“The veteran’s office here at Lipscomb University is nothing but outstanding. Since beginning my journey here at Lipscomb I’ve had to deal with many issues from scheduling to financial aid. With that being said everyone in the veteran’s office has been more than helpful with my needs and concerns,” said Michael Cromer, a sophomore nursing major from Cedartown, Georgia. “The personal and professional conduct of everyone in the office is above reproach, and Chad, along with the rest of the office goes above and beyond to ensure all of our veterans are well taken care of. Our veteran’s office is the best bar none, and I can see why we are one of the top schools for veterans in the country. I seriously cannot say enough good things about them.”

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Lipscomb University was one of only about 250 universities across the country selected for the ranking.

“Military Times' Best for Vets designation is trusted throughout the veteran community as the mark of excellence for schools and other organizations that work with veterans, service members and military families. It can't be bought with advertising dollars – unlike some other supposedly veteran-friendly rankings – only earned through a record of steadfast service and dedication to those who have served,” said George Altman, the Military Times editor in charge of the rankings.

“Fewer than half of the roughly 500 colleges and universities that competed for the recognition earned the right to call themselves Best for Vets in 2019. Their efforts should be commended.”

Currently, Lipscomb serves 235 students who have previously served or are currently serving in the armed forces or are depends of those who have. Included in this count are 85 dependents, which Staggs said is a university-record. The average GPA for students enrolled in undergraduate programs is 3.51, while nearly 70 percent of the students enrolled through the program work 35 or more hours per week.

Earlier this year the Veteran Services Program developed the Lipscomb Transfer Platform, a new tool that will aid veterans and transfer students through funding provided by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s Veteran Reconnect grant program. It is a self-service online tool that calculates the number of credits a veteran may receive based on an assessment of his or her prior learning and an evaluation of credits earned at other institutions. This tool allows veterans an opportunity to determine the number of credits they could receive at Lipscomb toward a degree prior to enrolling, and more importantly, which degree program makes the most effective use of their prior credits. It is one of the first of its kind in the nation and the only one in Tennessee.

In 2017, Lipscomb University became the first private university in Middle Tennessee to be designated a VETS Campus by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. The VETS Campus designation is part of the Tennessee Veterans Education Transition Support (VETS) Act of 2014. Campuses that meet the requirements must prioritize outreach to veterans and create an environment in which veteran students have the resources to thrive. Specific requirements include annual surveys of veteran students, targeted orientation programs, and mentoring and support services developed specifically for students who are veterans. THEC administers the VETS Campus program and provides the designation to campuses that meet the requirements specified by the VETS Act.

In fall 2009, Lipscomb launched its veteran services program. For veterans who qualify for 100 percent of the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits Lipscomb University has committed to allocate the necessary funds to allow them to earn an undergraduate degree through the Yellow Ribbon Enhancement Program. The university also offers qualifying student veterans a variety of graduate degree options.

Lipscomb’s program has also been recognized nationally for its quality. Military Advanced Education awarded Lipscomb the designation of a “Top Military-Friendly University” in its “2015 Guide to Military-Friendly Colleges & Universities.” Lipscomb University is consistently designated a Military-Friendly School by “GI Jobs.” In 2014, U.S. News also ranked Lipscomb as the second-best regional university in the South for veterans. The College of Business was ranked 24th in the nation in the Military Times’ 2013 Best for Vets: Business Schools Guide for veterans based on financial aid, academic policies and participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Lipscomb’s program has also received grants from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s Veteran Reconnect grant program for the past three years. In addition, a $25,000 Veterans Resource Center opened in November 2016, funded in part by the Sentinels of Freedom organization.

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