by Jeff Gudde
Lately, the halls of MCC-Longview are filled with high-and tight-haircuts, buzz cuts, and military bags from different services. You don’t have to be ex-military or some secret agent to be aware of this fact—the U.S. military active duty and veteran population at MCC-Longview is growing fast as soldiers return home to seek education and a new life sans uniform.
This fact is even more apparent upon visiting the MCC-Longview Student Financial Aid Office, where Sandra Kremer, Veterans & Financial Aid Office Supervisor for MCC-Longview, presently oversees the processing of veteran requests for their use of Montgomery G.I. and Post-9/11 G.I. Bill educational benefits.
“The amount of veterans submitting request has increased almost two-fold in the last six months,” Kremer said.
Matthew Ketcher, an MCC-Longview student, Marine veteran and National Guardsman, expressed some concerns about recent changes to educational benefits, specifically the limited veteran support for non-college degree training like IT certification, flight school and other non-degree training.
“College isn’t meant for everyone. Military service members are no different in this aspect. There seems to be a real bias on the part of the Veteran’s Administration to support the replenishment of the blue-collar worker pool—you know, like supporting industrial occupational training,” Ketcher said.
To date, MCCKC as whole is not approved by the VA as a Non-College Degree Training school, according to Kremer. This is in light of the Oct. 1, 2012 change, which allows for some basic certifications training to be paid for, but without any VA living allowance or stipend support which degree-seeking Veteran students do receive.
Even with some of these complications, MCC-Longview students like Amani Al-Halaq feel that now is a good time to get an education.
“That’s a huge concern of mine, just as it is getting a job after college,” he said.
It’s hard to ignore the benefit of 36-months of tuition coverage, $500 per semester for books and material,s and a living allowance of $1,000 per month, based on Kansas City’s government calculated per-diem locality cost.
One final sign of the veteran tide and the toll it is taking on MCCKC Financial Aid Offices is that, according to Kremer, MCC is going through “a major transition, where there will be one dedicated representative handling all G.I. bill requests, located at MCCKC’s district office. Responsibilities will be shifted accordingly from all the campuses, and the student aid office will only be in charge of forwarding request to the MCCKC Veterans Representative.”
Will this change properly support the needs of our returning veterans? They will find out soon enough, as the change in how submissions are handled is due to take effect for summer 2012.