Civilian veterans find educational opportunities at SMC

In their transition to civilian life and entering California’s workforce, veterans will now find it easier to attend a community college and get an education. Currently, an estimated 400 veterans attend classes at Santa Monica College. Chancellor Jack Scott, from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Offices (CCCCO), and California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) announced a newly signed memorandum that will ease the enrollment process for members of the military, who are exiting active duty.

Under new terms of agreement, veterans are now provided with easy-to-access links, which will guide them through the application process.

“Returning veterans face so many challenges in their attempts to re-enter civilian life, it’s wonderful to be able to simplify a process that might otherwise overwhelm and discourage them from pursuing their college education,” said California Department of Veterans Affairs secretary Peter Gravett, in the CCCCO press release.

According to Scott in the press release, “Our returning service members need access to the training offered at our colleges and this memorandum of understanding reaffirms the commitment our system and CalVet have to these veterans to get them enrolled and working toward their educational goals.”

The California community college system is composed of 72 districts, with 112 California community colleges, and serving up to 2.6 million students.

With the CalVet program available at all of the state’s junior colleges, veterans can receive the help they need from within the community.

Veterans use the G.I. Bill, which is an educational benefit earned by members of Active Duty, Selected Reserve and National Guard Armed Forces and their families, while attending a California community college. The G.I. Bill has several programs and each is different depending on a person’s eligibility and duty status.

A full-time student can receive up to $1,473 a year, using the Montgomery G.I. Bill. The National Guard G.I. Bill gives up to $345 a month to full-time students.

Former U.S. Army soldier Matthew Lutz, a veteran student at SMC, said he is very thankful for the CalVet and GI Bill education benefits that he receives in order to continue his education.

“The Veterans’ program here distinguishes what you can and cannot do. Basically putting you on the right track, and they pay for your tuition to public schools and give you housing and allowance depending on your title,’’ Lutz said.

According to a CCCCO press release, “The military personnel, veteran or family member may also receive information on the many other federal, state, and local benefits, resources and services they may be eligible to receive.”

CalVet will help veterans start their career by providing an application process to direct links on Calvet to CCCapplyand icanaffordcollegewebsites.

These websites will provide information for veterans regarding the application process for education benefits and how to pay for college.

These sites will inform veterans of their surrounding community colleges by using their zip codes on the reintegration forms.

At SMC, a Student Veterans’ Association provides services to veterans in need, promotes a successful educational experience and raises awareness of former service members’ plight.

Veterans must apply with the SMC Veterans’ Resource Center each semester or term for which they plan to receive benefits. The center is located in the Liberal Arts building, room 135.