Lorri Chin-Shue could be voted "most popular" on the campus of Gwinnett Technical College. As the college”s first veterans affairs advisor, Chin-Shue”s office is rarely empty and the phone rings constantly. And she”s only been officially "opened for business" for a few weeks.
In May, Gwinnett Tech became the first technical college in the state to launch a formalized outreach program for veterans. The Office of Veterans Affairs, which Chin-Shue leads, is designed to assist U.S. military veterans, guardsmen, reservists, spouses and dependents with claiming GI Bill education benefits, applying for college and financial aid, choosing a degree program, and securing a subsequent career.
As the traffic flow in and out of her office would indicate, there”s a great need for veterans services — particularly at two-year college campuses. Most of Georgia”s four-year colleges and universities do have veterans services programs, but the offering at Gwinnett Tech is unique for a technical college and in much demand. Last year, 200,000 veterans pursued a two-year degree using educational benefits, a number the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs expects to increase 20 to 25 percent over the next couple of years.
At Gwinnett Tech, there”s about 130 students enrolled with veterans benefits and that number is expected to grow at rapid pace. One reason is the Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, the new GI Bill. The bill takes affect this August and provides a wider range of benefits than the existing Montgomery GI Bill. Not only are the benefits greater for those who”ve served since September 11, 2001, but those who qualify, including members of the National Guard and reserves, will have a window of 15 years from the date of discharge to use their benefits.
Gwinnett Tech”s Office of Veterans Affairs is made possible through the sponsorship and support of the Scott Hudgens Family Foundation, whose generosity helps fund the program and established the D. Scott Hudgens, Jr. Veterans Scholarship Fund.