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San Diego Community Colleges See Influx of Veteran, Active Duty Students

Aired 10/3/12 on KPBS News.

Veteran and active duty military personnel enrollment at local community colleges is on the rise at a time when campuses are cutting classes and turning away students.

— San Diego and Imperial Counties' community colleges are seeing an influx of veterans, active duty military personnel and their dependents enroll, according to school leaders. But local campuses are bracing for even more growth as the United States draws down the war in Afghanistan. The spike comes at a time when local colleges have had to cut course offerings to cope with state funding cuts.

A tally from the counties' community college districts shows the number of veterans, active duty military personnel and their dependents attending community colleges in the region has climbed to more than 20,000.

Navy veteran Ryan Williams was able to complete his transfer requirements at Palomar College in the traditional two-year timeframe. He worries further cuts to community college budgets could mean even the priority course enrollment veteran students enjoy wouldn’t protect that growing population from a problem that faces many other community college students.

“They’re not going to be able to finish their degree on time," he said. "If they’re not able to finish their degree on time, they’re losing their benefits and on the end of their college career they’re going to pay for classes just like a normal student will.”

The community colleges are drawing attention to the anticipated crunch of new veteran students ahead of the November election. If the governor’s tax initiative, Proposition 30, fails, community colleges in San Diego and Imperial Counties stand to lose another $30 million.

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