When students return after the holidays, they may notice more veterans on college campuses.
State colleges and universities are seeing a huge increase in the number of service members deciding to return to school.
Over the next few years, that number is expected to increase even more.
Travis Cauwels is now hitting the books after two tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan as an active duty Marine. Now he's at Middle Tennessee State University majoring in animal science, hoping to start a new path.
"I have a wife and a little boy and it takes an education to really do anything these days," said Cauwels. "I have to do anything to better the life and my family."
Cauwels is not alone. MTSU has seen its veterans enrollment double since 2008.
While enrollment is down at Tennessee Board of Regent schools, the veterans population has grown exponentially at all of them. With two wars either ended or coming to an end, that number is expected to grow even more.
The increase in veterans enrollment is being attributed to an increase in the amount of the G-I Bill, which makes it much easier to return to school.
The transition can be tough. Many veterans come back from the war with PTSD and often don't relate to their younger classmates.
That's why MTSU and Veterans Affairs have partnered to bring the Vets Success program to the campus where the VA actually has a staffer on hand to help educate both veterans and faculty about how to succeed.
"This is a specialized population that we are specifically trying to address and help having an environment like the military center helps make that transition easier," said MTSU professor Tony Johnston.
It has been a haven for Cauwels, who commutes from Lawrenceburg, TN, four days a week.
"It's a whole lot easier to make the transition when there's a place like this to come and you can communicate with other people," said Cauwels.
For those who have sacrificed so much, it's a way to give back to make sure they can find success in their present and future.
While enrollment of veterans has increased at all schools, the biggest spikes were at the four-year universities as opposed to community colleges.
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