November 8, 2013
BENTON TOWNSHIP, MI – Lake Michigan College enrolled a record 136 veterans this year, a 24% increase over last year’s enrollment, which was also a record. Veteran enrollment numbers have been steadily increasing since 2009, at LMC and nationally, when the expanded Post-9/11 GI Bill became effective. The new GI Bill allows for funding of college and graduate education, as well as vocational and technical schools. It can also be used by reservists and the National Guard. According to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the number of beneficiaries is expected to increase along with the number of post-9/11 veterans.
LMC is dedicated to providing a military friendly environment. Veterans receive assistance in applying for Veteran’s Administration benefits and financial aid; course and career advising; and notification of workshops, scholarships, and job openings. In addition to facilitating access for students to veteran’s benefits, Veteran Student Specialist Linda Pliml is personally and professionally dedicated to the veterans.
“Veteran students tend to be more mature and serious. Some have post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues that they need to work through. The students are why I look forward to coming in to work every morning,” Pliml stated.
The feeling seems to be mutual. Christopher Jones, who is in his second year of pursuing an Associate of Arts degree in psychology, says that Pliml is a “surrogate mother” to many of the students she works with. For Jones, this support has been critical to his success.
“My mentors have helped put me in the frame of mind to be able to go back to school,” he stated.
Jones served in the Army from 1988 to 1992. He attended Alabama A&M for a short time after his retirement, but the hilly campus proved too much of a struggle for an injured leg. Jones also attended Lake Michigan College in the 1990s.
Jones plans to transfer to a four-year school once he earns his associate degree. He says he has been challenged, but with some tutoring, he has successfully completed his courses. The resources offered by Pliml and others at LMC are invaluable to veterans, he says.
“A lot of them are going through some trying times, some are older vets but are attending college for the first time,” Jones added.
Jones wants to give back some of the mentorship and support he has received. He is a part of the Student Veterans Advocacy Council (SVAC), which provides development, career planning, and social opportunities to help fellow veterans navigate through the college experience. The group is led by Faculty Advisor Greg Iwaniuk, who is a veteran himself.
“SVAC exists to promote enthusiasm for learning, and to develop leadership abilities through participation in career and technical education, civic, recreational, and social activities,” Iwaniuk stated. It currently has ten members: five males and five females. Two members are active army reserve and one is active coast guard. The club sponsored a seminar on post-traumatic stress disorder last year, among other team-building and service activities.
To learn more about opportunities for veterans at Lake Michigan College, or to begin the enrollment process for the spring semester which begins January 13, contact the College’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs at (269) 927-6181 or visit www.lakemichigancollege.edu.