OTC receives significant national grant to help veterans

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The U.S. Department of Education has renewed Ozarks Technical Community College’s federal TRIO grant for an additional five years to expand the nationwide Veterans Upward Bound (VUB) program.

The grant provides academic support, community veterans’ resources, advising, financial aid consultation and counseling to help prepare veterans to attend the college or university of their choosing.

VUB started at Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC) five years ago and has performed so well, the new grant now allows an expansion to 15 other counties in Missouri.

If veterans are not located near the Springfield OTC campus, they can also find help at the Waynesville, Lebanon, Ozark, Republic and Hollister campuses. VUB Program Director Michelle Ciesielski says OTC provides outreach, and will meet those without transportation right where they are at. 

“The expansion is really exciting,” Ciesielski said. “In the past five years we did serve 385 veterans just out of Greene County. We are very proud of that. In our next five years, I think we are going to blow those numbers out of the water, truly.”

Once a veteran is accepted into the program, the grant will cover application and admission fees, a state-required tuberculosis screening, one-on-one tutoring courses, assistance in finding scholarships, and eligibility to apply for extra scholarship money.

Veterans who have been out of school for an extended period of time will have the option to take refresher courses and will be offered help in navigating VA benefits.

“The VA benefits can be very tough to understand sometimes,” Ciesielski said. “You don’t always get all of the information as a veteran as you leave the military. You may not know what benefit is the best to use. We give them that information so they can make informed decisions about their financial future.”

Ciesielski says many veterans don’t realize they qualify for the VUB program. Eligibility requirements include the veteran’s household income being at or below 150% of the poverty line, first-generation college student status, disability and other variables. Veterans must show their need for assistance and cannot have a dishonorable discharge from the military. 

“We’ll help any veteran that walks through our door. We might not be able to enroll them fully in the program, but we want to be sure they know the resources too,” she said. “We’re not gonna keep anyone from achieving what they can. We really try to empower them and utilize their strengths to go out and achieve their college education, if that is what they want to do.”

Those interested in applying for the VUB program can call 417-447-7840 or visit the website here

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