By Military Connection Staff Writer Joe Silva.
Currently, there are tens of thousands of Veterans reporting for duty at college campuses. With the simultaneous phasing down of two campaigns, and the best Veteran education benefits that the country has ever seen, approximately a million more Veterans are expected to be enrolling in college and university courses over the next five years. Many schools are making great efforts to help their Veteran students assimilate to campus life. As a Post-9/11 GI Bill graduated Veteran student, I wanted to answer a few questions regarding Veteran students and Veteran schools, using my perspective and experience.
What challenges do many Veterans face when returning to daily life as a college student?
Of course, there is the readjustment to academic life. But Veterans have been conditioned to adapt and function with varying schedules and demands. My service gave me the confidence that I could accomplish anything. In my case, I went back to college with a family to support. I had to work nights, commute to school, and fit in family time in addition to my studies. It wasn’t impossible, but it was an added obstacle to my academics that many of my classmates didn’t have. I feel like my additional obligations made getting good grades that much more rewarding.
What can the schools do to help a Veteran student acclimate to daily life on campus?
Service-earned education benefits are going to be pumping billions of dollars into colleges and universities over the next several years. The schools that get that money will more than likely be the schools that cater to Veteran and military-dependent students. Veterans should CHOOSE schools that have all of the academic resources needed to achieve their academic goals, including the degree and major they want to attain. Additionally, the school should cater to their Veteran students by having a Veterans Resource Center. If a potential school doesn’t provide these, Veterans probably should consider enrolling elsewhere.
What boundaries must we follow to respectfully communicate with Veteran students?
While many Veterans love to talk about where they have been and what they have done, not all of us just spill our life stories to anyone. So, if you ask a Vet about their service, perhaps you should offer to buy them a cup of coffee and prepare for story time. My classmates loved story time. I even shared some of my sea stories in a few creative writing classes. I never experienced any instances of lack of respect from anyone on campus. But depending on where a Veteran has served and their personal experiences, they may or may not want to talk about their service.
Is mental health and/or suicide an issue among military Veterans returning to college?
College can be a trying time for anybody. There is a lot of pressure to get good grades, get a good job, or get into a graduate program. Faculty, staff and students should be on the lookout for signs of suicidal tendencies for all college students. But I personally think that suicide is less of an issue now for Veteran students than it was in the past, thanks to the Post-9/11 GI Bill. This GI Bill not only pays up to 100% of tuition, but also offers a $500 per semester book stipend and a monthly allowance for housing. The added income takes a lot of the pressure off of the Veteran students, who previously had to figure out a way to support their families while going to school.