By Katrina Julian – Cougar News Staff Writer
Students who have served in the military have been rewarded with rich incentives, and recently College of the Canyons Veterans Affairs explained how to apply it all through an informational session held in Hasley 133.
Last August, an updated educational assistance benefit for veterans, their dependents, and reservists went into effect. To help those eligible understand what is available to them with this new Post-9/11 GI Bill, COC VA Program Manager Renard Thomas has been breaking down the benefits in hosted sessions. Representatives from the Vet Center and VA Healthcare System were also on hand at the last one to provide more insight into the community.
“This is an opportunity for [student veterans] to gain clarity and see where the rubber meets the road,” Thomas said. “We want to help them make informed decisions…so they can maximize their benefits to achieve academic success.”
Priority registration and financial aid are among the major benefits right at their fingertips. About three hundred COC students take advantage of the program now but Thomas said that number is rapidly growing thanks to the updated GI bill.
Thomas speculated that veterans are drawn to this college because of the nice facilities, the valuable instruction, and the programs offered that provide students with appropriate tools for future jobs. His department aims to serve this growing group as a guide in effectively navigating the system.
“We get them plugged in and connected,” Thomas said.
Josh Eggman is a student veteran who works as the VA Certifying Assistant at COC. He said the passage of the new upgraded bill (referred to as Chapter 33) resulted in an influx of new students this year. That is because those eligible for it can now receive up to $700 dollars more a month than what the previous bill, known as Chapter 30, provided.
“More veterans are using it to survive the recession…They can come here for just seven units and get their tuition paid for plus $2100 dollars a month,” Eggman explained.
According to Eggman a majority of continuing students, who were already receiving benefits, also switched to the new Chapter 33 benefit.
“The old GI Bill was created for the last war and was just not feasible for many to live off of. Tuition would have to come out of what they received monthly,” he said. “But the new one is for current and ongoing operations with a new purpose to get them through school without having to work.”
Topics that were addressed in the recent meeting included basic allowance for housing (BAH), stipend for books and supplies, assistance with tutors, break pay, work-study opportunities, and over-payments. Beyond the veterans who did their four years in the military, these benefits are also relevant to active service members, dependents (spouses and children of personnel), and disabled veterans.
“Veterans have rich opportunities to make up for lost time,” Thomas said.
More informational sessions will be held in Hasley 133 throughout the semester. Future dates include March 17, April 14, and May 19.