Ozarks Technical Community College will use a $1.3 million grant to assist veterans in Greene County. Funding from the Veterans Upward Bound Program was announced Friday on the eve of Veterans Day.
OTC plans to use the grant for 125 veterans each year for the next five years. The funding will provide financial aid and academic advisement, benefit counseling and referral to community resources.
Dr. Loren Lundstrom, OTC dean of student development and retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, said individuals returning to school may be hesitant.
“This particular grant is to help veterans break down some of the walls that may be keeping them out of higher education,” Lundstrom said. “For some of our veterans it’s been years since they’ve been in high school, and they may be a little hesitant when they find out, ‘Oh, you mean I (have) to take college algebra?’”
The grant also enables the school to hire four full-time personnel and two part-time tutors that will be trained to assist veterans.
The funds come from the Department of Education federal TRIO program, which reviews proposals centered around “individuals with disadvantaged backgrounds,” according to its website.
The program is voluntary and will be free to veterans. In order to qualify for VUB, an individual must be living in a low-income range or be a first generation student. Additionally, the veteran must have 181 days of active duty service with better than dishonorable discharge.
Doug Carrell is a veteran and OTC student. He joined the army three months after 9/11, and served in Afghanistan from 2003-2004. He left the military in 2007. Now at OTC, Carrell serves as the president of the Student Veterans Organization.
On Friday, Carrell was awarded the 2017 Outstanding Student Veteran Award by the Sons of the American Revolution. Carrell said he hopes the grant will encourage veterans to go to school and seek help when they need it.
“College is intimidating for anybody,” Carrell said. “It’s especially intimidating for veterans who have an entirely different set of financial aid obstacles to navigate. The G.I. Bill is really complicated — you have a number of different obstacles to choose from depending on your service.”
Carrell hopes the professionals hired through the grant will guide prospective veteran students through the financial aid process. He said figuring out how to most effectively use money granted after service can be confusing, and sometimes results in a student squandering the funds or dropping out.
Joan Barrett, OTC’s vice chancellor for student affairs, said the Veterans Upward Bound is housed at OTC now, and will open opportunities for veterans in the area.
“This is as much a public service as it is anything,” Barrett said. “This is about filling a gap in our area, for veterans. We have a very large number of veterans that live in OTC’s service area. Why can’t we be part of helping them access higher education and helping make their work and academic dreams come true?”