Free Program Helps Missouri Veterans Get College Education
WARRENSBURG, Mo. — Veterans Upward Bound, a grant-funded program offered through the U.S. Department of Education, is up and running and seeking eligible veterans who want to complete a college degree.
Program Coordinator Tonya Kuranda said the program is based at the University of Central Missouri.
It serves a 10-county region and is open to veterans who meet at least one of the specified criteria: are under the federal low-income guidelines; are a potential first-generation college student; are at risk of academic failure; or are disability challenged.
UMC’s Department of Academic Enrichment received a $1.3 million grant in September to establish the program, with staff finalized in December.
UCM anticipates receiving $263,000 this year, and must renew the process annually over the five-year grant period.
Kuranda said she now is publicizing the program to find potential participants to discuss the possibility of going back to school.
The free program targets veterans who are separated from the military who want to obtain a degree at a two-or four-year institution or a vocational/technical school.
“We have to work with them before they enroll in school,” Kuranda said, whether that is UCM or another institution of higher learning in the service area, comprised of Benton, Carroll, Cooper, Henry, Johnson, Lafayette, Morgan, Pettis, Ray and Saline counties.
The program offers tutoring, GED preparation, assistance preparing for college entrance examinations, academic skills and career interest assessment, referrals to other agencies serving veterans, individualized online instruction or face-to-face tutoring, help with admissions paperwork, college planning sessions, assistance with scholarships and financial aid, including the GI Bill, and mentoring.
Services are tailored to the specific needs of the individual.
“We get on their level,” Kuranda said, and tailor the program to how they learn.
“Most have an educational dream that is kind of forgotten,” she said. “We help them achieve that dream … and get out of the socio/economic status they’re in.”
She said only about 10 percent of veterans use the GI Bill to further their education, adding, “It’s an amazing benefit.”
The program currently has two participants, Kuranda said, but has a quota of 125 new participants per year.
In a press release last fall, Chris Stockdale, Department of Academic Enrichment chairman, said a needs assessment found about 20,000 veterans in the 10 counties who have not enrolled in post-secondary education, including some without a high school diploma and many living at the poverty line.
Participants are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. The ideal time to start is at least one semester before the veteran plans to enroll.
Veterans interested in learning more about the program or who want to enroll may contact Kuranda at (660) 543-4785.
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