How Veterans Thrive at The Evergreen State College

September 2, 2020
Lira porch shot

If you are a veteran located in the South Sound and you are looking for an affordable, flexible, supportive environment to earn your bachelor’s degree, consider The Evergreen State College. As Washington’s only public liberal arts college, it combines affordable tuition with a well-rounded, interdisciplinary approach that allows you to harness the passion and leadership skills you honed in the military to build a solid foundation on which to achieve your educational and career goals.

Why does Evergreen’s model suit veterans so well? “You’ve got to be a self-starter and a motivated learner and veterans tend to be all of those things,” says Wade Arave, Evergreen’s director of admissions. “We find that they get onto campus, they get involved, they take leadership roles in the program and produce really high-quality work because their experience translates well into how the academic model works.”

Oscar Lira served in the Army for six years. He is currently a senior at Evergreen, focusing his studies in the legal field and preparing to apply for law school. He took classes at a university as well as a community college in Colorado before he decided to enlist. When his term of service was complete, he hadn’t lost sight of his original dream of earning a bachelor’s degree, so he toured Evergreen and spoke with some other veterans.

“I fell in love with it based on my ability to have an opinion and explore a broader education within a single class instead of focusing on one topic,” Lira says. He is pleased to be moving toward a possible career in prosecution law. “I’ve gotten a lot of wisdom from faculty at Evergreen,” he says. “Based on their knowledge and recommendations, I’ve developed the confidence to pursue that route.”

Lira was able to start at Evergreen with a junior standing thanks to the college’s generous transfer credit program. The admissions office combined credits from the classes he took in Colorado with his military transcript, ultimately saving him half of the total tuition. Combine that with the fact that Evergreen elects to discount tuition by 50 percent for any veteran with an honorable discharge, as well as the benefits most veterans and their dependents can access through the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, and you can see why a degree from Evergreen makes sense financially for Washington’s resident veterans.

Ryan Townsend is a former member of the Marine Corps and a junior focusing his studies on philosophy and writing. With the help of the Veterans Resource Center (VRC), he secured a work-study opportunity in the admissions office, where he gets to talk to prospective and current students as well as alumni. If a veteran contacts the admissions office, he usually gets to chat with them. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had,” Townsend says. “I get to help people and learn about the school and how it operates from the inside.” Prior to the pandemic when the VRC was a physical gathering space, Townsend loved to take advantage of the community area with coffee, snacks, sofas and TVs. He even met his roommate here, who happens to be another former member of the Marine Corps named Ryan.

Evergreen maintains a solid academic framework to support veterans. The Veterans Bridge Program serves a purpose similar to Cornerstone, Evergreen’s new student orientation class. It helps new students understand Evergreen’s interdisciplinary learning model and the value of narrative evaluations, among other unique aspects to their approach. Veterans’ Next Mission is another course designed specifically for veterans and helps them think critically about how their valuable experience in the military can continue to serve them and their communities as they transition back to civilian life by way of higher education.

Randy Kelley is a retired U.S. Navy Commander and the director of the VRC. The VRC is a place on campus where any veteran or dependent of a veteran is welcome any time, for any reason. “The Veterans Resource Center is designed as a one-stop shop on the Evergreen campus,” Kelley says. “If we can’t fix any issue a veteran is experiencing, we’ll find out how and where we can fix it, and we’ll give them the shortest path to get there.”

Kelley is ready to personally help veterans navigate every aspect of starting at Evergreen, from accessing military benefits such as the G.I. Bill© to transferring credits from a military transcript or prior classes in higher education. He is also connected to numerous regional organizations, such as the Lacey Veterans Services Hub, that can help veterans with issues such as counseling, housing, healthcare and more.

When you combine the flexibility of a liberal arts education with the value of the state school tuition, plus the generous discounts veterans have access to, Evergreen is an outstanding option for any veteran who wants to build a career out of college experience rather than tick boxes to earn a degree.

If you are a veteran considering earning your bachelor’s degree, give Commander Kelley a call at 360-867-6251 and he’ll happily answer any questions you might have. You can also email or visit The Evergreen State College website.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at