Veterans get education assist at area colleges

Continuing to give military service men and women an opportunity at a post-secondary education, the Department of Defense has introduced a revised memorandum of understanding for institutions participating in a tuition assistance program.

The altered memorandum of understanding takes effect March 1 and any institution of higher education wishing to enroll a veteran using the assistance program, must have a signed copy of either the revised or original document and appear on the DOD’s “Participating Institutions” list.

Lycoming College, Pennsylvania College of Technology, Lock Haven University and Mansfield University all appear on the list.

“This particular memorandum is for students who are in any branch of the military – Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines. And if they are either in the reserves or in active duty, they are eligible for tuition assistance,” said Jim Lakis, director of financial aid at Lycoming.

Candy Baran, financial aid director at Penn College, explained that the new memorandum for the program was a product of President Barack Obama’s principles of excellence.

Dennis Correll, associate dean for admissions and financial aid at Penn College, said once a military member is approved for veteran benefits, they are qualified for tuition assistance. Correll added that most veterans are able to apply for all of their benefits on the computer and Penn College helps those who need it.

“It’s really a simple process for the veteran,” Correll said.

According to Lakis, veterans are eligible for a maximum of $4,500 a year through the program.

Baran said the process can be somewhat “overwhelming” for the veteran, so the college will sit down with the service member and explain the process and do what they can to ease anxieties.

There are about 330 military members enrolled at Penn College. Correll said most receive some sort of tuition assistance. Lycoming College has one service member enrolled in the college. Lakis added that they had two last year but one was sent overseas for another tour.

Lakis also said that once enrolled, the service member must verify that they are enrolled in one of the institutions and they are “maintaining satisfactory progress.”

Both schools said they are happy and pleased to be able to offer an educational opportunity to military members.

“From the top down, we really value those that volunteered their time to our country,” said JoAnn Kay, veterans coordinator at Penn College.

Both also added that, in their experiences, those who have served in are “more mature.”

Baran said Penn College continues to look for ways to serve veterans that may have special needs due to being untraditional students. Veterans enter college later in life than most, some have families and she said the school wants to build a “community” around them.

Correll believes the school is a good destination for veterans because the work is comparable to jobs they had in the military.

“For us, many of (the veterans) have been dealing with hands-on (tasks).. and some of them have training that its a smooth transition for them,” he said.

Lasik concluded that although some schools are not on the “Participating Institutions” list, Lycoming is proud to be on it, saying students perform, “quite well,” at the school.

“One of our missions is to provide an education for all citizens. We are certainly appreciative that there are people who are willing to serve in the armed forces,” Lasik said.