The morning of Nov. 19, Cory Payne, manager of military and veterans programs at Mountwest Community and Technical College, received a message from a medical specialist serving with American armed forces in Afghanistan. By noon, that person was registered for two online classes for spring semester.
Payne says that's one example of how the Huntington-based school tries to serve both active-duty military personnel and veterans. The school's efforts were recognized recently by the Military Times, which named MCTC as the most veteran-friendly two-year school in the nation.
Payne said MCTC has about 140 veterans on campus, but it also reaches out to active-duty members of the Army and Navy to help with their educations both before and after discharge. It has more than 200 active-duty people enrolled at present, he said.
"We've got to catch them before they get out of the service. That way their benefits go further," Payne said.
"My program has never been marketed on any active duty military installation. It goes out by word of mouth by people I've helped."
The Military Times is a Gannett Co. publication devoted to military news.
It evaluated schools on a variety of factors, including whether its per-credit-hour rate for all programs was at or below the $250-per-credit-hour cap on military tuition assistance in the 2011-2012 school year, whether a school participates in the Veterans Affairs Department's Yellow Ribbon program during the 2012-2013 school year, whether the school accepts American Council on Education credits, and whether the school partners in the Veterans Upward Bound Program, all of which Mountwest does.
"We're the only CTC in the state that has almost 50 degree programs based on military jobs," Payne said.
MCTC reaches out to people as they are recruited into the military so they can prepare as soon as possible for a job when they leave the service, Payne said. For example, an emergency medical service might not recognize EMT training a veteran has received in the service, but MCTC can provide accredited classes while the person is in the service so he or she can get an EMT job immediately after discharge, Payne said.
Payne told Military Times, "The only thing that I would tell other institutions is: Don't throw your veterans a barbecue and call yourselves military-friendly, unless you're going to get them a job the next day. Your program needs to have teeth. It needs to have purpose. If it doesn't, it's just a dog-and-pony show."
MCTC offers two-year degree and one-year certificate programs in allied health, business and information technology, human services and occupational and technical programs, as well as numerous continuing education opportunities and customized instruction.
Other West Virginia-based schools showed up on Military Times' rankings. Concord University, West Virginia University and Davis & Elkins College were ranked No. 15, 18 and 63 respectively on the newspapers list of the most veteran-friendly four-year colleges and universities. The news paper also ranked Charles Town-based American Military University as No. 11 on the list of online and non-traditional colleges.