HACC York freshman Daniel Buck had his first day of school Monday.
Like most freshmen, Daniel admitted to being a little nervous.
"It was a little scary at first, but the teachers are really good. They made me feel right at home," Buck, a Felton resident, said.That's what happens when it's been a few decades since your last class.
Buck, 49, is an Air Force veteran taking advantage of a new military funding program to get veterans into school, the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program known as VRAP.
He's also one of about 110 HACC York students who are military veterans.
HACC kicked off classes on Monday, and officials think they'll continue to see a strong military presence in classrooms, especially with the new VRAP program.
VRAP offers one year's worth of tuition funding for unemployed veterans ages 35-60 who aren't getting other military-related funding, such as from the Montgomery GI Bill.
HACC York has only two students, including Buck, signed up for VRAP so far, but the program only rolled out in July and has 49,000 veterans applying across the country, with 33,000 accepted so far.
"It's nice to be able to offer them something," said Robert Bragg, a representative in the campus Military Veteran's Affairs office.
That's not counting other older military education funding options such as the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which is for veterans who served after Sept. 11, 2001, and is good for up to 36 months of benefits, including full tuition payment for in-state public school students.
Marine Corps veteran Darnell Rias Jr., a freshmen, is using Post 9/11 funding. When he graduated from West York in 2009, college wasn't in the plan.
"I always knew I wanted to be in the Marine Corps. I wasn't thinking about college at the time," Rias, 22, said.
But after serving three years, he decided he need an education so he could become a physical therapist.
Buck also said getting a degree - plus the new VRAP funds - motivated him, as his attempts to be an entrepreneur hadn't worked out.
Being a veteran isn't enough to guarantee a career, he said.
"Without that degree, I wouldn't be able to do it," Buck said.
David Satterlee, HACC York's dean of student affairs, said HACC has been an attractive option for veterans because they can enroll right away. That's important for people who may not have planned on going to college or thought they were going to make the military their career. And getting a degree is more important now for veterans, Satterlee said."It's going to be less and less likely they'll be able to get a job coming right out of the military," he said.
Being a veteran "will get you past a lot of barriers. But you still need certification, you need a degree," Bragg added.
HACC's entire system has nearly 900 students who are veterans. Overall, HACC and the Penn State University system lead the state in enrolled veterans, Satterlee said.
Sgt. Randall Lint, 25, just got back over the winter from a deployment in Afghanistan, his second tour of duty in the Army Reserves. After taking two semesters of classes at HACC in between tours, Lint returned last semester and was back again on Monday.
The 2005 York County School of Technology graduate wants to study business management, and with his Post 9/11 funding, nearly all his costs are covered.
"I've got to take advantage of these free benefits," Lint said.
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