Meeting students’ needs: KPC program assists veterans

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Tuesday, June 24, 2014 10:34pm
  • News

Kenai Peninsula College’s Veterans Affairs Program is implementing a unique scholarship to help ensure veteran students have access to sources of financial aid.

Within his first year as Veteran Services Coordinator, John Pollock noticed a population of veteran students who are no longer eligible to receive benefits in the form of financial assistance through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

In response, this spring Pollock developed the KPC Veterans Talent Grant Scholarship.

Every fall and spring semester students who meet the specified requirements of the program will be eligible to apply for tuition waivers of up to 15 credit hours each, and 73 in total are available for the next school year, Pollock said.

The two students receiving the very first scholarships for this fall semester are on the Dean’s List, Pollock said.

“Both are very deserving,” he said.

The idea struck him after having a conversation with a 70-year-old student, who was wounded during combat in the Vietnam War.

For heroic actions, the veteran was awarded with a purple heart, Pollock said. However, decades later he had no access to supplementary funding for school.

Pollock’s first idea was to reinvest an administration fee that KPC receives through the VA. The reimbursement is given for defraying the cost of certifying veteran student for financial aid, Pollock said.

However, because KPC is a community campus system within the University of Alaska Anchorage, the college adheres to the Board of Regents Policy and University Regulation, which limits using revenue from the VA for scholarships or tuition waivers, Pollock said.

Student Services Director Bill Howell helped Pollock tweak the plan. In the end the two came up with a system that calculates the total credit hours of KPC’s veteran students and diverts three percent of the tuition that pays for the courses into a scholarship.

This all took place within about a week, Pollock said. It was an extremely fast turnaround.

Targeting this niche of students would not have been possible without Pollock, Howell said.

Hiring a Veteran Services Coordinator to jumpstart the Veterans Affairs program was an option last year because of the consistent grant money coming in from the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, Howell said.

The funding for the coordinator position came through the borough’s postsecondary education funding ordinance which, since 1990, has given one-tenth of one percent of the revenue from an area wide tax levy to KPC.

Each year KPC has to reapply to the borough assembly for this portion of property taxes, Howell said.

This spring there were 198 registered veteran students at KPC, and 83 were seeking degrees, Pollock said. Of these students 90 percent qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which is for those that signed up for active duty after September 10, 2001.

Pollock, a who was a colonel in the Marine Corps, said he spent time leading and working with Post-9/11 veterans and those shared experiences give him a unique perspective into understanding the needs of the KPC veteran population.

KPC College Director Gary Turner said in coordinating research with the University of Alaska, he has not come across a similar financial aid program, nor has anyone else he has spoken to.

Turner said he believes it is a unique program and that he hopes other colleges and communities will see how it works and mirror the method.

 

Kelly Sullivan can be reached at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com.

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