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Continuing education for veterans

North Carolina is home to more than 120,000 active duty military personnel and their families as well as more than 720,000 military veterans. Our men and women in uniform deserve our support not just throughout their time of service, but also afterward as they transition out of military life and move toward new employment and educational opportunities.

This type of continuing support has been a key focus at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, which in 2016 established the Office of Military Affairs to provide support services to help military-affiliated students achieve their academic and career goals. The university ranks first in North Carolina and 40th nationally by Military Times of the top four-year colleges for military-affiliated students, and ninth on the 2018 U.S. News & World Report list of Best Colleges for Veterans in the South.

For more than 20 years, UNCW has had a presence in Onslow County through its partnership with Coastal Carolina Community College, Marine Corps Base (MCB) Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River to better serve active and retired military students. Partnerships like these serve as a great example of one of the key goals of the My Future NC Commission: to help our state’s educational systems work collaboratively to help individual students succeed, no matter where they might be in their educational or professional pathways. To achieve this goal, educational systems must break down their system-centric silos and implement collaborative processes and policies that facilitate a student’s continued progress along those pathways.

For a veteran, that means making sure relevant military experience can be counted for academic credit, that financial support is available, that educational institutions work with the business community to ensure appropriate employment opportunities, and that support services provide the type of assistance veterans need to make a successful transition from of military to academic life.

For non-military students, the same type of continued collaboration and support is just as important in helping students succeed. True partnerships between educational systems will help create more seamless pathways that guide students through the entire educational process to achieve their academic and life goals more quickly.

The My Future NC Commission is a bipartisan group of members from across the state in the education, business, government, nonprofit and faith communities, which hopes to use the expertise from institutions across the state like UNCW, along with national and state research, to develop a collective statewide vision about North Carolina’s educational needs and how to best meet them so that all students have the support they need as throughout their educational and employment journeys.

In addition to supporting students as individuals, My Future NC’s work is a long-term strategy to better align a highly skilled and talented workforce with better opportunities to support and strengthen our communities’ economic growth. By the end of this process, the commission hopes to recommend:

  • A statewide goal for the number of North Carolinians who need education beyond high school;
  • The benchmarks needed to help students succeed along their journey — such as targets for kindergarten readiness, third-grade literacy, eighth-grade proficiency in reading and math, college readiness, and workforce alignment in critical areas; and
  • The policy reforms and initiatives necessary to achieve these goals and targets.

To help it develop these recommendations, My Future NC is asking for input from students, parents, teachers, employers, political leaders, and interested residents through an online survey – available at

We truly hope you will take time to participate in this process — whether by completing the survey or attending the listening session — to share your thoughts on what educational improvements will maximize our area’s economic strengths and help our students and communities truly succeed. This is an important conversation for the future of our region, our state, and its people — and we hope you will be part of it.

Editor’s note: This opinion piece was originally published by the Wilmington Star News. It has been posted with permission from the Star News.

Donald L. Porter

Retired U.S. Army Col. Donald Porter is past chair of the Fayetteville State University Board of Trustees and a member of the My Future NC Commission.

Jose V. Sartarelli

Jose V. Sartarelli has served as Chancellor of UNC-Wilmington since 2015.