Pellissippi makes veterans’ education more accessible, affordable

The number of veterans enrolled at Pellissippi State Community College this semester is up 15 percent from spring and 20 percent from last fall, and the institution has put in place a number of resources to make their experience a success.

In anticipation of the increase, which stems in part from changes in benefits in the GI Bill, the college convened a work group to study services provided to veterans and learn how to better coordinate programs for students in and discharged from the military.

The first action the group took was to create a brochure targeting the special needs of veterans. The brochure outlines the resources available at Pellissippi State to current and former military personnel. It explains how to apply for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs educational benefits. It also details services offered in the areas of admissions, financial aid and veterans’ assistance, assistance with a disability, and personal and career counseling.

“Creating the brochure is a first step,” said Rebecca Ashford, the college’s vice president of Student Success and Enrollment Management.

The college has a full-time VA certifying official, Sharon Shastid, to support student veterans. Shastid works in Pellissippi State’s Financial Aid Office.

The college also distributed a survey to veterans this semester to learn what their experiences have been at Pellissippi State and what additional services need to be provided. Survey results continue to come in and be assessed.

Four student advising sessions aimed specifically at helping veterans have been conducted on the Pellissippi Campus, and a veterans’ student organization has recently been formed as well.

Pellissippi State is also one of four Tennessee community colleges participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program, a provision of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008.

The program helps pay tuition and fees that exceed the highest public in-state undergraduate rate, which, in Tennessee, is $6,850 at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Because the costs of attending Pellissippi State are among the lowest in the state, the program benefits mainly veterans who pay out-of-state tuition and fees.

For more information about how Pellissippi State can help with veterans’ needs, call or e-mail Shastid, 865-694-6472 or seshastid@pstcc.edu.

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