Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- For the second straight year Onondaga Community College (OCC) has been recognized by G.I. Jobs magazine as a military friendly school.
On the front lines, education may not be on the top of their minds, but when military service men and women leave the battlefield behind, it’s a major decision, and colleges like OCC are trying to help them.
“This is probably the most support I’ve gotten since I got out of the Marine Corp,” said Kyle Lepkowski.
Lepkowski is in his first year at OCC after serving four years in the Marines, including two tours in Afghanistan. To be selected as a military friendly school requires things like a full-time office and a number of services.
“We have a ‘Defer your Tuition’ program until your GI Bill money comes in. We have an emergency loan system so you can buy your books because we know that money doesn't get to you until later and even have a laptop loaning program,” said Veterans Program Coordinator Paul Holzwarth.
It’s not just veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, there’s also a program called VRAP where unemployed vets between 35 and 60 can apply. The Veterans Affairs Office at OCC estimates they have a total of about 280 vets, dependents and reservists on campus, which is about as high as they've ever had.
"We do have a very strong and active Veterans Association on campus. It’s a student group formulated by different veterans and funded by Student Government,” Holzwarth explained.
Holzwarth says the office has a lounge space, which he says is important for interaction between veterans.
“It kind of makes you feel at home and kind of makes you feel like your back in your unit, you can say whatever you want to them,” said Lepkowski.
OCC has had a veterans program for years, but while other schools did away with them during and after the Cold War, OCC never did and continued to build on it, which is how they got where they are today.
G.I. Jobs magazine also named Jefferson, Mohawk Valley and Tompkins Cortland community colleges military friendly schools.