Veteran Student Enrollment Increases
Some veterans in the Alachua County area spent the day remembering Sept. 11, 2001; some of these veterans are getting accustomed to life as students.
At Santa Fe College, veteran student enrollment has increased by the hundreds. Officials say the new G-I Bill has a lot to do with that.
Damaris Najeri, of Texas, says she hopes to one day work as a wildlife conservationist. When she left the Air Force, she came to SFCC to make that dream a reality with the help of the GI bill. “I depend on it for everything” said Najeri. “I get a monthly allowance, so it pays for my food, my rent. And it helps pay [my] tuition."
Najeri is working toward a bachelor's degree and the old bill would have only covered her costs for the first three years. However, thanks to some changes that just took affect, the amount of time student veterans can receive benefits has been extended.
She also plans to transfer to the University of Florida to continue her education, and she's not alone. Over half of UF's student veterans graduated from SFCC, and the new G-I Bill makes the continuation possible.
John Gebhardt, a veteran advocate at both SFCC and UF, says the number of student veterans has been skyrocketing in recent years. He says this year there's 100 more veterans at SFCC thanks to the new bill. This brings the total to nearly 700 veteran students. Gebhardt expects those numbers to double by this time next year
Veterans like Damaris Najeri are praised for their service, and welcomed to campus as they embark on a perhaps longer stay, thanks to the new bill.
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