Pellissippi State uses grants to open Veterans Success Center

A Veterans Success Center is well on its way to opening at Pellissippi State Community College, thanks in part to grants from the Tennessee Board of Regents and the Tennessee College Access and Success Network.

The new center is expected to serve about 500 military veterans, reservists, and family members and will bring many of Pellissippi State’s veteran-related services into a centralized location on the Hardin Valley Campus.

“We’re trying to provide an additional layer of support to an important group of students—and a growing group of students—who are returning to college after service in Iraq or Afghanistan,” said L. Anthony Wise Jr., Pellissippi State president.

“We want to provide the best possible environment for them to learn and grow while they’re here at Pellissippi State.” The college serves more than 500 veterans who use the GI Bill each year, accounting for about 5 percent of the student population.

Pellissippi State is providing staff and equipment to the Veterans Success Center with the help of a $37,982 Tennessee College Access and Success Network grant. A three-year, $98,000 TBR Access and Diversity grant brings in additional funding for veterans support, including supplemental educational opportunities through tutoring and workshops.

With the assistance of the grants, Pellissippi State hopes to increase student veteran participation and enhance veteran persistence in completing higher education degrees.

Through the new facility, an estimated 125 veterans each year will receive graduation-focused support. The students also will have access to tutoring, mentoring, advising, financial aid assistance, job placement services and a fully equipped study lounge. Internship opportunities with local, veteran-owned businesses will be available through a partnership with the Tennessee Veterans Business Association.

But the center plans to play another, at least as important role in supporting student veterans.

Statistics indicate that more than 88 percent of veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill abandon higher education pursuits after the end of their second semester of college, and only 3 percent graduate.

Feelings of isolation are said to be a major contributing factor to veterans dropping out.

“The Veterans Success Center will offer not only the ‘formal’ network of support these students need,” said Ted Lewis, vice president of Academic Affairs. “It will also provide them with an informal network through which they can work together, socialize, share common concerns.”

Among veterans attending college now, most take advantage of either the Post-9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33) or the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program. A majority of those using the Post-9/11 GI Bill are younger combat veterans who have served within the last 10 years.

To be eligible for VRAP, veterans must be between the ages of 35 and 60, unemployed and ineligible for assistance from any other VA education program. Typically, a large number from both programs are low-income, first-generation college students.

For more information about the Veterans Success Center or other programs and services offered by Pellissippi State, call (865) 694-6400 or visit www.pstcc.edu.

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