Veteran enrollment increases at KPC

Over the past decade, the veteran population at the Kenai Peninsula College has continually increased, and with it, the impact of those students on the local economy.

From the 2009/2010 academic calendar year to this past school year, the number of enrolled veterans at the college more than doubled, from 208 to 443 certified veteran students, according to Veteran Services Coordinator Royce Bird.

“We had 47 KPC degree-seeking students in the spring 2017 semester,” Bird said in an e-mail. “We should reach closer to 50 KPC degree-seeking students in the fall 2017 semester. KPC has certified 443 veteran students in (the academic year) 16/17.”

More veterans are taking advantage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which offers up to 36 months of education benefits to those who have at least 90 days of aggregate active duty service after Sept. 10, 2001, and are still on active duty, or those who are an honorably discharged veteran or were discharged in relation to a disability after 30 days, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Bird also believes that the addition of a veteran services department has increased veteran enrollment at the college.

“In order for veteran students to receive their education benefits, the designated school certifying officials at KPC must submit certification requests to (Veterans Affairs) to ensure that our students receive their benefits in a timely manner,” Bird said.

During the Fiscal Year 2016, Bird said the college received over $450,000 in tuition revenue from veteran students eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

“Most of the KPC degree-seeking veterans also receive a monthly housing and subsistence allowance of up to $2,200,” Bird said.

Veterans attending the college receive a basic monthly allowance equivalent to the military basic allowance for housing at an enlisted rank of E-5, acording to the Department of Veterans Affairs website.

In addition to tuition and housing, which is paid directly to the college, veterans can receive $1,000 to use for a year’s worth of books and supplies.

This past spring, with 41 veterans receiving the monthly housing benefits as degree-seeking students, about $80,000 a month was put into the local economy, Bird said.

“It’s huge,” Kenai Peninsula College Director and CEO Gary Turner said during a Kenai Peninsula Borough finance committee meeting on May 16.

“This is money that is churning across the peninsula because of the veterans,” he said.

Within the college, veterans are most likely to pursue Associate of Applied Sciences degrees in process technology and industrial process instrumentation.

“What I hear from most veteran students in these programs is that they want to finish school, obtain a good job, live life and be able to provide for their families,” Bird said.

Bird also said that the Associate of Arts is a popular program because of the flexibility of the course load, allowing veterans to find their passion.

Reach Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com.

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