PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Under current rules, military veterans can’t use their GI Bill to go to code school, but one Portlander is working to change that.
“What motivates me most is my family, my community,” David Molina told KOIN 6 News.
Molina, a father of three, is one of more than 500,000 unemployed veterans in the country. He said he’d like to go to code school to become a computer programmer, but the Department of Veteran Affairs has a formula that’s preventing him from achieving his goal.
“We served our country, our government needs to do its job,” Molina said. “We elected them, they’re in those positions full-time. They need to do their job.”
Molina said the one promise he was depending on after a decade in uniform was help paying for school under the GI Bill. But KOIN 6 News learned the GI Bill won’t pay for code schools.
“The big problem we have is a policy in place with the new GI Bill and government, there is red tape that won’t adapt and be flexible enough for current, modern times,” Molina said.
But the specialized schools are exploding in tech towns like Portland, where tech employers are struggling to fill positions. The programs typically last 2-4 months and cost just a fraction of what a typical 4-year university does.
“Code school trains people so they are extremely hirable,” Jordana Gustafson with Code Fellows Portland said.
KOIN 6 News reached out to the VA to find out why the bill can’t be used for code school. This was their response:“State Approving Agencies (SAA) are generally responsible for the approval of education and training programs in their respective states. They are the pathway into VA for a program’s recognition and identification as being eligible for the payment of VA education benefits. Colleges, univesrities, and other training establishments seeking to provide VA eligible training programs should begin by contacting their SAA.”
Molina said he was disappointed in the department’s response, and that he expected something more.
But some schools like Code Fellows in Portland aren’t looking for state approval. They said it’s not practical for their quickly changing curriculum.
“No one course is exactly the same, and when you have accreditation so people can use the GI Bill at your school, your curriculum becomes frozen in a sense,” Gustafson said.
Molina has been lobbying for change all the way from Portland to Washington D.C., but he said he’s sick of waiting. He’s launched a nonprofit called Operation Code that will accept donations with the intent of creating code scholarships for veterans.
“They’ve taken loans, private loans, 20% APRs, really ridiculous rates,” Molina said. “They’re pulling money from different places, their 401k, they’re just going and they’re not going to wait.”
Operation Code has a goal of $7.5 million to help fund scholarships and send veterans and their families to code school. Their crowd funding effort kicks off Thursday.