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More veterans enrolling in college, UTEP says its noticed the spike
By: Gina Benitez
EL PASO, Texas- As the U.S. military drawdown in Afghanistan continues, more veterans are flocking to college campuses.
And UTEP is seeing the same trend as many schools across the country.
"When you've served your country, when you get out, you're ready for anything. There's nothing that you cannot do," said Michael Briseno, an El Paso veteran and current UTEP student.
Briseno said that includes school.
He spent eight years in the Army and once he got out, he knew college was a must for him.
"When you get out and you look for work, and it's kind of slow and they're always asking you and looking for experience and all you know is the military, it kind of puts you in the corner," Briseno said.
He's one of around a million veterans around the country who've enrolled in college in the last four years.
"We've seen steady growth in veteran enrollments and active duty enrollments as well over the last five years. We're up probably 50 percent since 2008," said Michael Smith, vice provost at UTEP.
Smith said there's a little more than 800 vets on the UTEP campus this fall.
"I think it's probably for a variety of reasons. One is the drawdown, recently anyway. The drawdown of the military," Smith said.
The university's Military Student Success Center opened earlier this year.
It's a one-stop shop for students affiliated with the military.
The center helps with veterans' questions, what programs and benefits they qualify for and connects them with other services on campus.
"They want to make sure that you graduate. They want to make sure that you don't fail, they want to make sure that you don't get discouraged. They are there to just kind of hold you up," Briseno said.
"They are looking to forward their education and become productive members of the civilian workforce, it's our job to help them do that in every way we can," Smith said.
Briseno is set to graduate this upcoming spring and soon hopes to work for the Veterans Administration.
"That little piece of paper is so much more than something you hang on your wall," Briseno said.