Governor’s Signing of Bills to Benefit Saddleback College Student Veterans

Governor Jerry Brown recently signed three bills into law that will have a positive impact on Saddleback College’s student veterans. The legislation, which passed the California State Senate and Assembly with bipartisan support, will make community college more affordable for veterans, who will also be able to more easily enroll in classes. Terence Nelson, Saddleback College’s dean of transfer, career services, and special programs and project director of the college’s Veterans Education and Transition Services (VETS) program, worked closely with the Orange County Legislative Task Force to help draft and advocate for the bills.

AB 2133 allows veterans to use their four years of priority registration within 15 years of discharge from the military, which is in alignment with the expiration of GI Bill benefits. This bill gives our student veterans the best opportunity to enroll in courses that help them reach their educational goals. The priority registration continues when veterans transfer to the California State University system.

AB 2462 requires California’s community colleges to create a process for evaluating military experience and converting that into college credits. The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office will begin working on this process with implementation expected in 2015. When veterans are given credit for their military experience, they will be more likely to complete their education in less time.

Finally, AB 2478 waives veterans’ non-residency status for two years after they are discharged, allowing them to pay in-state tuition; previously, residency was only waived for one year. Since many veterans are not ready to enroll in college immediately following their discharge, this change provides more flexibility for a veteran to enroll.

“Saddleback College is very committed to the success of our student veterans,” stated Dr. Tod Burnett, president of Saddleback College. “I want to thank all of our college and district management, faculty, and staff who offered their assistance and expertise to write and advocate for these bills. I also thank our VETS program, our Veterans Office for their work in processing veterans education benefits for students, student veterans club, and the college foundation for their daily commitment to provide opportunities that directly benefit our veterans and college community.”

“I applaud the state of California for implementing these veteran friendly bills,” stated Gary Poertner, chancellor of the South Orange County Community College District.  “These changes provide our veterans with the enhanced access and flexibility they need as they transition back to civilian life.  They also signal our deep gratitude for their service.”

Since changes were implemented to the GI Bill in 2009, the number of Saddleback students who are receiving veterans benefits has doubled to nearly 1,000 each year and the number is expected to rise as military men and women return from Iran and Afghanistan.