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Oct 14, 2013 8:18 PM by Nathan O'Neal

PCC copes with government shutdown as veterans benefits at risk

TUCSON - As the partial government shutdown drags on, it carries the risk of eliminating veteran benefits for students across the county's colleges and universities.

At Pima Community College, more than 200 active-duty military students were already cut off from tuition assistance as of October 1st.

If the shutdown continues, it poses the problem of compromising veteran benefits of more than 1,400 students at PCC. It's those kinds of benefits that many students rely on for everyday living.

Richard Mendoza works at the Veterans Center at PCC. He depends on veteran benefits to pay for his housing while he is going to school. Like many others, he's frustrated that his monthly living stipend is up in the air.

"A lot of people feel they did what they had to do to get their benefits or they sacrificed what they had to be classified as disabled," Mendoza said. "So there is a lot of frustration on it that things need to get done of course."

Terra Benson, the Director of Admissions and Registration at PCC, said that because of the shutdown, they're operating in a cloud of uncertainty.

"We're unsure how long veterans education benefits will continue to be paid, we've heard October 17th... and we've also heard through the end of the month - we're just unsure," Benson said.

PCC Chancellor Lee Lambert also weighed in.

"I will not allow Washington gridlock to stand in the way of any man or woman who is serving their country from pursuing a higher education," Lambert wrote in a letter to students with a military background. Keeping that in mind, PCC has delayed veterans' payments so they will be due at the end of the term to help accommodate the current challenges.

"So there is some alleviation from that but of course, they're concerned on the long-term now," Mendoza said.

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