KCC keeps aviation program | VA benefits reinstated

Ground school to start April 2

After considering ending its aviation science program due to suspended benefits to military veteran students by Department of Veterans Affairs, Klamath Community College is keeping its program in place. It is enrolling new students for its aviation science ground school preferably by Friday, March 31 and until spring term begins Monday, April 2.

KCC President Roberto Gutierrez spoke to the Herald and News last week about the board of education’s unanimous decision to keep the program, expressing excitement about recent actions by the VA to reinstate benefits to veterans, which make up nearly three-quarters of the students previously enrolled. The state of Oregon is still reviewing changes to the program’s flight school curriculum, and flight courses will remain closed until its approval. KCC is now one of two community colleges in Oregon to offer an aviation training school.

Gutierrez expressed disappointment that the correct information hadn’t been received by KCC sooner.

“I was relieved because I was really thinking about those veterans and the time they spent in this program, and some of them were halfway through, some of them were almost done, some of them had just started,” Gutierrez said. “Some of them had just moved here from other places.”

Gutierrez said during the last year, all aviation programs at community colleges in Oregon were not running and were under review, so students would have had to leave the state to finish their training.

“What I understand, a lot of them are still here,” Gutierrez said, noting he sent letters to aviation students detailing the situation.

KCC needs to go through the proper steps to update the courses into the 2017-18 course catalog and get the state to approve them, according to a letter to aviation students from Gutierrez.

“Yes, our goal is to offer classes Spring 2018 but that deadline is coming very soon,” the letter stated. “The question is, can we get through the approval process before the deadline? We will continue to keep you apprised and push as hard as we can. Know that (aviation program lead) JR Scott, KCC Faculty, and Precision are working through this process as fast as we can to provide more clarity. Thank you for your support and perseverance! We are getting very close.”

“We are taking the proper steps to ensure that KCC and its partners remain in compliance now and into the future so we may provide this valuable training to our Students,” the letter added.

Gutierrez said that if the state of Oregon approves submitted changes to the community colleges curriculum, the flight schedule may return as well.

“Most students will be ready for that, and hopefully we will also start the flight program next quarter also,” he said. “If not, we have to wait until we get the curriculum changes approval from the state.”

David Rath, managing director of Precision Aviation, also commented on the program’s progress.

“The VA suspending KCC was not an event that only challenged KCC,” Rath said in an email. “The suspension affected every college/flight training program in Oregon. I personally have colleagues who manage flight schools across the US. As I discuss these events with them, the focus on Oregon and the interpretation of various requirements was concerning.”

Rath said the suspension by the state meant Precision couldn’t enroll new students or allow current students to enroll in a new class. This caused what Rath called a “chain reaction” impacting income, activity, Precision as a business as well as a program facilitated by KCC.

“We are happy the board listened and understood the impact that it would have caused to the students,” Rath said.

The students who are currently enrolled and have been waiting are well positioned to jump right back into the program with minimal obstacles, according to Rath.

“However, we have had many potential new students that have been awaiting the program to be reestablished by the VA,” Rath said. “Those students may now not be able to enroll with such (short) notice, given their own personal situations.

“Numerous students decided to fly with KCC and Precision,” he added. “They selected this program to be the foundation to build upon their career with. We need to stick by those students and not fail them.”

KCC’s aviation science program was approved in July 2014 and began offering classes that fall.