Feb 15, 2011

Testifying for veteran assistance

Central Lakes College Counselor Don Pfeffer testified Feb. 14 at the Capitol on behalf of a bill carried by State Rep. Bob Dettmer to repeal a sunset provision on a veterans' higher education assistance program that otherwise in 2012 will end. Lawmakers began the program in 2006. Pfeffer, director of the higher education veterans programs for the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs, said the 58,000 contacts last year between program staff and veterans constituted a 31 percent increase over the previous year. Veteran services officers testified that the No. 1 question they’re asked by veterans pertain to education benefits. It’s estimated that some 12,000 veterans are currently enrolled in Minnesota higher education institutions. Veterans higher education assistance staff keep hours at some 62 location across Minnesota, including CLC. The legislative bill permanently repeals the sunset on the education assistance program — the sunset had been pushed back once — but the legislation provides no funding. The veterans affairs department says it needs to find $1.5 million for the next fiscal year.