Many in Dallas-Fort Worth make the transition from soldier to student

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Ivan Rodriguez has been out of the Army for nine weeks, and he's itching for his next assignment.

It happens to be in a classroom.

Rodriguez, 25, an Alaska native who went to Afghanistan twice courtesy of the U.S. Army, is a new student at the University of Texas at Arlington, one of thousands of young men and women who are cashing in their military service for a free college education.

"I'm thinking of this as a job," said Rodriguez, who plans to study political science and marketing. "I'm getting paid to do it, so that's a job."

Last September, the Veterans Affairs Department rolled out the most generous educational benefits in generations with the Post-9-11 GI Bill, equivalent to the GI Bill available to veterans returning home from World War II. Enrollment of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans spiked at universities nationwide, including double-digit increases at UT-Arlington, the University of North Texas, Texas State University and Texas Tech University.

This fall's enrollment of veterans continues to tick upward, though not as dramatically as last fall and nowhere near the late 1940s. But as the numbers of combat-hardened veterans on campuses grows, universities are developing new ways to reach out and make their jump to college life as painless as possible.

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