Veteran enrollment is on the rise, according to Institutional Research at Central Oregon Community College, but as veterans return they’re finding little funding for veteran-specific clubs and social programs.
The number of veterans enrolled at COCC has nearly doubled in the past five years, according to Chris Egertson, research analyst at the Institutional Research department of COCC.
“Numbers come from those students who have self-identified themselves as a veteran on COCC’s application,” said Egertson. “It is possible that some veterans do not self-identify, while others who are not veterans do self-identify.”
There are currently 537 students enrolled at COCC, according to Egertson, as opposed to 316 in 2007.
Many of these students, like Mike Callahan, are coming back because of Chapter 33 of the G.I. Bill, which grants funding to veterans returning to school.
“The benefits are so much greater,” said Callahan, “you’d be foolish not to.”
Gordon Price, Director of Student Life, said college is “a great place for our troops to come back to.”
While returning vets rise in numbers, their funding on the local level has barely changed.
Two years ago Oregon Department of Veteran’s Affairs hired a circuit rider who traveled to Oregon colleges answering veteran’s questions about benefits and programs, according to Price. The position was cut due to lack of funding after one year, according to Price.
“Central Oregon Veteran’s Center runs on a shoestring budget,” said Price. “It relies on grant money and donations.”
At COCC’s Vet Center, a repurposed classroom upstairs in the Campus Center, the computer was donated and the coffee is paid for out of Price’s own budget.
Several veteran students are in the process of trying to start a Veteran’s Advisory group, which would be an informal connect and support group. The Veteran’s Advisory group would address such issues as priority registration for veterans and pairing up veterans with advisors who have military experience.
However, the group would mainly focus on the social aspect of being a veteran at COCC and building the veteran community.
Scott Greenstone | The Broadside