SAN MARCOS — For the veterans at Palomar Community College in San Marcos, the GI Bill is rarely enough to pay school and living expenses. To help make up the difference between federal subsidy and reality, the Palomar College Foundation has created the Education for Heroes Fund. The fund awarded its first $12,000 to six students in February.
Palomar College has the largest veteran community of any college or university in California. Many of these veterans have families to support. In order to qualify for the GI Bill, they have to be enrolled full time, but then they often have to work full time as well to make ends meet.
“Our goal is to provide additional support to veterans so they don’t have to work so hard outside of school,” foundation trustee and college President Dr. Robert Deegan said. “It’s hard to work 40 hours a week and stay enrolled 15 hours a week when you need to spend another 30 hours a week studying.”
In addition, there are items the GI Bill simply doesn’t cover. Childcare and car expenses are not directly related to education, but they can still be a barrier to going to school. Many veterans suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and therapy can be costly, according to Education for Heroes Fund Co-Chair Brig. Gen. (ret.) David Brahms.
“The transition from uniform to mufti is not as seamless as some would have you believe,” Brahms said.
Since the fund was created last year, community response has been strong with more than $300,000 raised in cash and pledges. The Rotary Club of Camp Pendleton alone has committed $100,000 over a four-year period, $30,000 of which has already been donated. Aerospace heavyweight Lockheed Martin Orincon has also pledged $100,000.
“To me it goes a step further than a lot of the other (education funds) I’m involved in,” Orincon Manager Terry McGee said. “This one takes the holistic approach of supporting the family members too.”
The goal of the organization is ultimately to raise a $5 million endowment and offer around $200,000 annually in scholarships and grants, Brahms said. The group would like to extend benefits not just to returning veterans but to the families of soldiers who have died during service.
Until then, the Education Heroes Fund will continue to do what it can with what it has.
“When you see the face of the veterans we’ve helped, you go ‘wow!’” Brahms said. “These are people who’ve been given license to dream and they’re dreaming big dreams.”
More information on the fund can be found online at www.palomar.edu/foundation/HeroesFund or by contacting Executive Director Rich Talmo at (760) 744-1150, ext. 2733.