By Debbie Gregory.
On March 24, 2014, the Student Veterans of America (SVA) released the first wave of their findings from the Million Records Project. The project is an SVA initiative designed to gain a better understanding of Veteran and other non-traditional college students. Approximately 1 million college records were reviewed for the study. The initial findings of the Million Records Project is in direct opposition to the popular belief that Veteran students struggle or drop out of school.
The study found that 51.7% of Veterans who used their education benefits have received at least some form of post-secondary degree, certification or completion rate. While this statistic is still below the successful completion rate of 59% for traditional students, this is a far cry from the popular, but unsubstantiated, claim that only one in three Veterans successfully capitalize on their education benefits. These numbers do not include the Veteran students who are currently in the process of completing their academic programs.
For this stage of the Million Records Project, SVA partnered with the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) and the VA. These three entities collaborated to review data from a sample of approximately one million Veteran education benefits records, spanning from 2002 to 2010, as well as student post-secondary enrollment and completion records collected by the NSC. After removing currently enrolled Veteran students and duplicates from Veterans enrolled in more than one program or at more than one school, a total of 788,915 records were analyzed. This figure represents roughly 22% of the Veteran student population during that period.
The SVA’s research is the first comprehensive research about how Iraq and Afghanistan-era Veterans are performing in college. This generation of Veterans are the recipients of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, in which the government has invested nearly $34 billion. While critics will say that the results could have been better, the numbers are promising.
The Million Record Project was funded by an estimated $2.2 million in grants, awarded to the SVA by Google, Raytheon, Lumina Foundation, and the Kresge Foundation.
The project also found that the most popular areas of study for Veteran students were business, computer and information sciences, social sciences, homeland security, and law enforcement/firefighting.
The results also showed that while Veteran students may take longer to complete their academic programs (four to six years for a bachelor’s degree), they also showed that Veterans who are successful in their academics statistically continued their education, taking it to the next level, including 20.8% of Veterans who completed their bachelor’s degrees and went on to a higher degree program.
Veteran students should be encouraged by the improved number. But they should also consider the disappointment with the 51.7%, taking this as a challenge to raise the bar.