NEWBERRY — College is going to be more affordable for veterans in the area thanks to a new initiative at Piedmont Technical College.
Piedmont Tech was recently accepted into the Yellow Ribbon Program by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The program allows schools to cover any tuition expenses for veterans that are not already covered by the Post 9/11 GI Bill. The VA will match PTC dollar-for-dollar in covering the additional expenses.
“It goes into effect in August,” said Ryan Shelton-Benson, veterans services coordinator at PTC. “There won’t be any out-of-pocket costs for the students that participate.”
The program is particularly geared toward veterans who do not qualify for in-state tuition. Piedmont Tech can accommodate 50 students in the Yellow Ribbon Program.
“Some students come to South Carolina for specific training that is offered at Piedmont Tech,” Shelton-Benson said. “Other veterans may be returning to South Carolina after serving elsewhere and no longer qualify for in-state tuition.”
The Yellow Ribbon Program is just one way Piedmont Tech reaches out to those who’ve served. In addition, the Student Support Services Veterans program recently completed its first full academic year.
The program, which receives support through the U.S. Department of Education, had 40 students in its first full year and can accommodate up to 60. SSSV Counselor Frank Mervin said that 75 percent of the inaugural group was able to either successfully continue to the next academic year at PTC or transfer to a four-year school.
“These veteran students can be taking classes either online or on campus,” he said. “Our mission is to help veterans transition from soldier to student.”
SSSV does so in a host of ways, from helping students connect with services both on campus and in the community to providing encouragement to veterans and their families. This past year, SSSV offered workshops covering subjects such as financial literacy and career readiness.
“It creates an atmosphere that we are veteran-friendly,” Mervin said.
Mervin visited military facilities to learn more about the unique issues that veterans face.
“I’m their advocate here on campus,” he said.
One challenge many veterans cite is applying for the array of benefits they may be eligible for.
“That’s one of the biggest things we hear about,” Mervin said. “Sometimes the information can be overwhelming. We help walk them through the process.”
The overall objective is to increase the number of veterans who advance from one year to the next and remain in good academic standing, ultimately growing the number of vets who graduate or successfully transfer to a four-year institution.
“We’re undergoing a major outreach effort right now for the upcoming school year,” Mervin said.
Students can apply for SSSV at www.ptc.edu/veterans or they can stop by the Veterans Services Center on the Greenwood Campus. To learn more, call (864) 941-8764.
Those interested in participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program can contact Ryan Shelton-Benson at (864) 941-8657 or email@example.com.