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JCC official says return of tuition assistance will help Fort Drum student soldiers

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Jefferson Community College’s director of military programs said the Congressional vote Thursday to restore the Army’s tuition assistance program was a positive step for Fort Drum students.

“We’re very concerned for our students ... the military students enrich our classrooms here,” said Donald R. Johnson, who works at the post’s Robert C. McEwen Education Complex. “We want to bring them back into the classrooms.”

The program was suspended on March 8, affecting military students who were interested in enrolling during JCC’s late spring session and other periods.

“Students who were military were very frustrated,” Mr. Johnson said. “They had set up goals to achieve for themselves, and this had put a roadblock in their way.”

In the weeks following the decision, Mr. Johnson said, JCC helped students seek other funding sources, such as federal and state student aid. One soldier, he said, was awarded a scholarship the school had not already distributed.

Mr. Johnson said there may be a need for caution until the program is officially reinstated.

“Until we see the Army say yes and turn on the funding, we have to be circumspect about this,” he said. However, he said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the program’s future.

The enrollment of military students is an important part of the college’s budget.

Earlier this month, Jill M. Pippen, dean of continuing education, said JCC’s late spring session has 102 students on tuition assistance, taking 686.5 credits valued at more than $100,000.

There was some concern that without action on restoring the funding, the college could see a reduction in enrollment that would lead to cutting the number of courses offered.

Mr. Johnson said the current budget constraints were tough on everybody, from the federal and state level down to individual families.

“Budget issues affect everybody,” he said. “We’re still optimistic good things will come out of this.”

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