When Jonathan London finished his active and reserve service in the U.S. Army in 2004, he found himself back home in Kanab, Utah, working at dead-end jobs where he couldn’t see himself advancing.

“I just wanted something better for a career,” he said. “I just needed something better, so I could support myself and my family.”

So London became one of a growing number of veterans who have enrolled in Mohave Community College this year. He said the military’s education benefits were a major reason why he enlisted after graduating from Davis High School in Kaysville, Utah.

“Going to college would be more stressful if it weren’t for my Montgomery GI Bill,” London, 33, said. “I would have to work full-time, keep my bills paid off and try to use what little is left over to pay for school. It’s been a real blessing to have those benefits and to use them.”

Across MCC, veteran enrollment has increased by slightly more than 12 percent between the Spring 2012 and Fall 2012 semesters.

“We’ve had quite a few new students enroll,” said MCC’s Veterans Service Coordinator Eric Corder. “I see them enroll in a variety of programs including engineering, culinary arts, welding, nursing, dental hygiene and business.”

MCC is approved by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to enroll eligible veterans, widows and dependents. The VA will only approve funding for veterans who are taking classes toward a certificate or an associate degree.

MCC offers a general studies associate of applied science degree, which allows students to take a variety of courses to help find a career path that appeals to them. Once enrolled, they can change to that degree program.

MCC has multiple agreements with four-year colleges and universities nationwide to seamlessly transfer students’ MCC credits to those institutions toward a bachelor’s degree.

The VA offers seven different educational benefits to veterans, Corder said. Currently, the most frequently used is the Post-9/11 GI Bill available to veterans who received an honorable discharge after serving at least 90 days of active duty after September 10, 2001, he said.

Other veteran benefit programs, like the Montgomery GI Bill, cover education expenses for eligible veterans who served prior to September 10, 2001.

Corder also attributed the increase in enrollment to the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP), a VA program that offers up to 12 months of training assistance to unemployed veterans. He said 17 students had enrolled at MCC since July 1, when the federal benefit was first offered.

Connie Hall, a disabled veterans’ outreach specialist based in Kingman, Arizona, said applications are still available for qualifying vets, who are between the ages of 35 and 60 who were honorably discharged.

“VRAP provides local training that is more accessible and affordable for our veterans,” Hall said. “It’s not putting our veterans in deep debt, so they can get a little extra training and they can be more competitive. The best part is they can only receive training for high-demand jobs, which gives them a better chance at finding a job after they complete the program.”

When Hall first started working at the Arizona Department of Economic Security’s Employment Service division in Mohave County nearly three years ago, she said maybe 10 percent of the veterans she assisted were going to college. Today, she estimates that percentage is closer to 60 percent.

“MCC has a wide variety of programs to offer our veterans and that has been tremendous,” she said. “Our older veterans have been getting laid off from companies that are closing down. And they have been finding it really hard to get back into the job market without having some extra education. The number of veterans going back to school has increased immensely.”

London said he plans to continue his MCC coursework to eventually transfer to Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, to complete a bachelor’s degree in zoology.

“That’s another nice aspect about my military education benefits. I can focus on school and complete my degree, instead of waiting until I can afford to pay for it,” he said.

Interested veterans can start their MCC enrollment process by first applying for their VA benefits. Once they’ve applied, veterans can take proof of their applications to MCC to begin their enrollment process.

“Once they’ve applied, they don’t want to delay,” Corder said. “They want to get in early. There is one veteran advisor on each campus. The Post-9/11 GI Bill not only covers tuition and fees, but offers a monthly housing allowance and book stipends are provided. The funding is available to them if they served after Sept. 10, 2001, they just don’t realize it. Our goal is to get that message out to our veteran community.

“These men and women have served our country and we want to be able to give back to them for what they’ve done for us: fighting for our freedom and putting their lives on the line for us. It’s hard to imagine someone is willing to die for us. We want to be able to provide more for them because they are willing to do that,” Corder added.

Veterans can learn more about their federal education benefits by going to www.gibill.va.gov.

Registration for MCC’s Spring 2013 semester has begun. Interested veterans are urged to start the application process immediately. Students can access the Spring 2013 class schedule online by visiting www.mohave.edu/schedule.

To learn about the admissions process, contact a veterans advisor on the nearest MCC campus by calling MCC Connect at 866 MOHAVE CC or (866-664-2832). The center is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week, 365 days a year. Corder can be reached at (928) 681-5668.

Veterans interested in the VRAP should first call the DES Employment Service office nearest them: Bullhead City (928) 763-4154, Kingman (928) 753-4333 and Lake Havasu City (928) 854-0350. Veterans living in the North Mohave County area are asked to call the DES Kingman office.