Veterans enrolling at RCC in increasing numbers
A growing number of military veterans are turning to Rogue Community College for post-secondary education and job training. Though not all are eligible for educational benefits, more than 1,000 RCC students currently attending are veterans, according to Anna Manley, director of Financial Aid.
"RCC serves as a postsecondary training site for many veterans," Manley said. In the recent past, RCC served about 400 veterans annually who received approximately $2-3 million in educational benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. But that figure is on the rise.
"In 2008-09, we assisted nearly 500 vets, about a 15 percent increase," Manley said. "Projections for the current year indicate a possible 40 percent increase to approximately 600," she added. "We appreciate not only the service veterans provided to our country, but also the rich perspective they provide to the classroom and college dynamic."
Many RCC programs, from short-term career/technical certificates to two-year academic/transfer programs, are certified by the Veterans Administration as eligible for educational benefits.
"RCC encourages veterans to carefully research options and seek the advice of veteran's advisors as well as Veterans Service Center personnel before making a decision," Manley said. To help make veterans' experience at RCC successful, the college offers a wide ranges of services including academic advising and tutoring, disability services, counseling, and vets' clubs.
The main points of contact on RCC campuses are the veteran's advisors:
- 541-956-7109 on the Redwood Campus in Grants Pass
- 541-245-7738 on the Riverside Campus, Medford
RCC Counselor Tom Pike, 541-245-7558, also works with veterans, and recently the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs established a Campus Veterans Service Officer position that serves RCC. Marty Kimmel provides non-educational services to vets such as filing claims for services, navigating VA systems, and helping with medical, legal or housing issues. Kimmel is in Medford at the Riverside Campus in G Building the second through fifth Wednesday of each month and at the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center every Monday; she's at the RCC Redwood Campus on Thursdays. Kimmel can be contacted at 503-559-1386.
Additionally, RCC student government has chartered a veterans club. Advisors are Paul Fisher, 541-245-7529, and Brad Ross, 956-7252.
Military gave student skills to succeed.
When Bryan Studebaker was discharged from military service in August 2007, attending Rogue Community College was a natural next step.
Wanting to further his education, Studebaker chose RCC based on location, cost and availability of the programs he was interested in: Fire Science and Emergency Medical Technology. He's now in his second year at RCC preparing for a career as a professional firefighter and paramedic.
Studebaker, who has compiled a 3.5 grade point average since continuing his education at Rogue, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2000 upon graduating from North Valley High School.
"I didn't know what I wanted to do after high school, but I knew I wanted to gain some life experience and go to college eventually," he recalled. "I saw the army as a perfect opportunity to do both and save some money along the way, while serving my country and doing something that was honorable." By the time he turned 23, Studebaker had travelled to seven different countries.
"The military, without a doubt, was a life-changing experience," said Studebaker, now 27. "The army taught me how to be a leader, work hard, gave me critical thinking and communication skills, and to appreciate everything I had at home in the United States: family, friends, rights, and freedom of religion," he noted.
During his seven years of service, Studebaker did two tours in Iraq. His last assignment, as a staff sergeant in Kuwait, was serving as a track vehicle supervisor. Following his discharge, he began taking emergency medical services classes at RCC.
"The military gave me the skills to succeed in whatever I decided to do after I got out," he said. And RCC staff and faculty helped Studebaker make the transition from military to academic life obstacle free. Teri Smith, an RCC veteran's advisor, helped with Department of Veterans Affairs applications that Studebaker said could have bogged down because he is pursuing a dual major.
"She helped with the paperwork and got the VA to cover both majors, and she gave me a lot of helpful career information," he said. "I haven't had to worry about anything being substantiated since then. Everything has been really smooth."
Studebaker also credits RCC instructors such as Brian Robinson with helping him succeed. Robinson, who retired seven years ago as a deputy chief after a career with City of Grants Pass Public Safety, has taught fire science at RCC for 25 years.
"H'’s knowledgeable and really knows what he's talking about," Studebaker said. For his part, Robinson appreciates the perspective and commitment of returning vets such as Studebaker.
"Having veterans like Bryan really brings a high level of experience and maturity to the class," Robinson noted.
Studebaker will complete an Associate of Applied Science degree in fire science in May and is set to finish a second AAS degree in emergency medical technology a year later. Studebaker, who also is serving an internship with Grants Pass Public Safety, likes the organized structure of firefighting agencies.
"I enjoy being able to help people, and it's a good career," he added. Studebaker encourages other former servicemen and women to check out the educational opportunities available to them.
"The GI Bill is something we paid into," said Studebaker, "and it’s only going to benefit us in the future."
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