November 6, 2006
Veterans returning to Sacramento State
Military veterans, including many who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, are returning to civilian life. They are also entering the Sacramento State campus in numbers not seen since the Vietnam War as a result of the expanded GI Bill, according to Jeff Weston, coordinator of the Veteran Affairs office on campus.
The number of veterans using educational benefits this fall—both those who have either served active duty or are reservists—has increased to more than 500 veterans. This is an increase of more than 100 veterans from the Fall 2005 semester, he said.
In all, the Veteran Affairs office on campus provides service to well over 700 students including both veterans and the dependents of service-connected disabled veterans.
“Veterans have served their country, and now they looking to campuses such as Sacramento State to begin or resume their education,” said Weston, who served in the Air Force for four years, including six months in Qatar in 2002, the staging area for the Iraq invasion.
“We’ve had a great increase in our numbers, but we know that there are other veterans out in the Sacramento region who we need to reach and help them take advantage of the educational opportunities here at Sacramento State under the GI Bill.”
One such veteran is Tim Rich, who served in the Coast Guard for six years before enrolling at Sacramento State to study kinesiology and marketing. “I am working to get a solid background in those subjects so I can go into sports marketing. I wouldn’t be here without the GI Bill,” said Rich, who studied at San Diego Mesa Community College and San Diego State University before coming to Sacramento State.
Under the GI Bill, veterans can potentially earn benefits in excess of $1,000 a month as full-time students, plus extra financial incentives. Reservists get less while more funds are available for disabled veterans. The historic 1944 GI Bill provided education benefits to millions of veterans returning from the war.
Rich, who works as a student assistant in the campus Veteran Affairs office assisting other veterans, is the type of veteran Weston wants to attract to Sacramento State.
In his job as coordinator of veteran affairs, Weston visits local military bases such as Travis and Beale to talk with prospective veterans about attending Sacramento State after leaving the service, and he plans to meet with groups such as the American Legion and the Disabled American Veterans.
“They might be thinking about going to college but wonder what it will be like. I am there to answer questions and reassure them,” he said.
Weston is also part of the “Troop to College” initiative created by Gov. Schwarzenegger—made up of representatives from the UC, CSU and community college system—which helps veterans make the transition from the service to college.
“Once veterans get on campus, I serve as their ambassador in dealing with other parts of the campus,” Weston said. “The campus can seem overwhelming with all the offices from financial aid to academic advising. The University is a different world than the military.”
Weston said another wave of veterans may be headed to Sacramento State. Last year Congress authorized reservists—who have been called up to serve in Afghanistan and Iraq since the 2001 terrorist attacks—to take advantage of newly introduced benefits, which are not technically considered amendments to the GI Bill.
According to the Veterans Benefits Administration, veterans typically have 10 years to use GI Bill stipends after leaving active duty.
“Like many students about to enter college, veterans are a little apprehensive,” Weston said. “But once they get here, they are eager to learn, get a good education and begin another phase of their lives.” For more information on veteran’s benefits, visit www.csus.edu/admr/vets.
For media assistance, call the Sacramento State Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156.
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