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College Summit Focuses on Serving Military Community

— About two million troops have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan in the last ten years. Community college leaders from 12 Western states met in San Diego Friday to learn about serving those active and returning troops, more and more of whom are enrolling in community colleges.

Lynn Neault, vice chancellor of student services for the San Diego Community College District, joined a panel with representatives of Coastline Community College in Orange County and Maricopa Community College in Arizona to discuss programs that meet the military community’s unique needs.

“Some of the needs are really transition - transitioning from military life to college life and they want to sort of connect with people like them, people who have undergone some of the same experiences," she said. "Many of them have learning disabilities (and/or) mental-health issues.”

Programs focused on serving military students have a four-decade history at San Diego's community colleges, which positions Neault's department as a model.

“It’s not uncommon for leaders in other organizations to call and inquire how things got started, how you leverage your services. So, we do get inquiries. And our director of our military-education program ... she has provided significant support to other institutions," she said.

More than 11,000 veterans, active military personnel and their family members are enrolled at San Diego campuses, and more than 140,000 active-duty personnel get online training through the district.

Providing online courses, which can be done on base, aboard a ship or from abroad, is a central part of Coastline's services for its military students, said Loretta Adrian, the school's president. Non-credit courses are also available to teach veterans and their family members, or caretakers, about coping with brain injury, which she said affects as many as 30 percent of all injured soldiers.

But, coping with the medical effects of going to war is just one of the many challenges facing the veterans. Rico Lollie works in Phoenix. His schools have set up one-stop offices for veterans and active military. They help students navigate the complex bureaucracy involved in signing up for benefits.

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