California Community Colleges (CCC) Troops to College Coming Home Initiative

Rationale:  There is an immediate need to mobilize community colleges across the nation to address the increasing number of veterans currently returning from Iraq and which is expected to rise in significant proportion in ensuing years.  California leads the nation in number of veterans (2.2 million).  The CCC currently enrolls 17,000 of the 22,000 veterans enrolled in higher education in the state, as well as an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 active duty personnel, not including dependents.

Proposal:  The Chancellor’s Office has submitted an earmark request of $2 million to Congresswoman Doris Matsui to establish the CCC Troops to College Coming Home Initiative within the Los Rios Community College District, which would become a Lighthouse program to be replicated throughout the 109-campus system of the CCC and stand as a national model.  This community college district was identified for the project as it is located in the capitol of the 8th largest global economy, with a wide array of state agency and statewide business/industry structures and which is currently under the leadership of the most recognized politician on the planet, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who established A Troops to College Initiative in early 2006, stating: “I want California to become a model state and veteran-friendly in terms of higher education.”

This pilot project seeks to build on the few, but currently successful California community college programs (Combat to College, Boots to Books, etc.), encompassing education, as well as health, workforce, and mental health modalities that constitute a well-rounded curriculum responsive to the specific needs of this emerging student population.  The central focus is identification of best practices among campuses and military services in current programs and their replication/modification appropriate to the individual campus and community, in conjunction with the development and implementation of effective outreach programs that include participation in job and education fairs, campus veterans support teams, construction of information websites, and education counseling services, all in concert with veteran community support network entities, such as The Coming Home Project, The Peaceful Warrior’s Project, and the Sacramento Veterans Resource Center.

The first level of build-out would encompass 10 selected community college campuses representing California’s northern, southern and central regions and stand as a statewide model, nationally, for “lighthouse” veteran programs.   To launch this build-out as a national model, a Troops to College Summit under the sponsorship of Governor Schwarzenegger has been contemplated (with paid sponsorships from business/industry).

ISSUE:  $2 million for first level build-out of Initiative was planned for Los Rios and the 9 campuses:  $550K to Los Rios CCD to develop initial Lighthouse model; $250K to Chancellor’s Office for a designated CCC Veterans Services Statewide Coordinator/office assistant and web site build-out; $500K divided among 9 campuses to supplement current wages among 3 veteran student workers per campus; and $700K to be distributed to nine campuses according to individual campus needs and TC Coming Home program priorities to develop model program.

The Congresswoman’s request was forward to Appropriations but was more than likely reduced to $250K or less, severely limiting any systemic build-out in a timely manner.

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