Veteran Students Have Special Needs

Colleges seem to be adept at recruiting veterans but are they adept at serving veterans?  Are colleges taking steps to aid veterans as they face tremendous obstacles in their path of attaining a college degree?

After World War II, many U.S. veterans returned home and decided to attend college.  The GI Bill is still an incentive for the majority of those enlisting in the military.

Colleges that enroll military veterans need to have the resources, support and advocacy for military veterans to succeed in higher education and the ability to ensure they will graduate. Many colleges are unprepared to deal with the unique needs of former service members.  Without special attention many student veterans will fail to graduate.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill gives they the opportunity to do something that is constructive for their minds.  A college degree gives them a mission and allows them to move forward in life.

Strategies do exist that help keep veterans in school.  They are specialized orientation programs, helping veterans connect with one another, training faculty and staff on challenges veterans face that offer more counseling and financial aid.  However, surveys show that many schools are lacking in such efforts.

Veteran students receive lower levels of campus support than non-veterans.  Veterans are transitioning from a regimented environment to a college environment where there is less direction. A course to help veterans adjust to the classroom, learn about programs and share their experiences with other students might be beneficial.

Veterans are used to a structured environment where they are given orders and they follow them.  Veterans need more supervision and follow through from their counselors. Academic support programs and services, like veteran-focused tutoring, advising, mentoring and counseling are needed.  Programs should provide specific advice for veterans.

Student veterans that are supported by their colleges and universities attain higher grades and higher graduation rates that their peers.  More than 500,000 veterans have used the benefits offered to them through the Post-9/11 GI Bill.  That number will probably rise as more troops come home.  Some 300,000 members of the military transition back to civilian life every year.

Those making the transition are faced with a disconcerting veteran unemployment rate, particularly for the youngest group of veterans. Veterans without a degree face even more daunting barriers since the unemployment rate for high school graduates is generally about twice that of college graduates.

Operation College Promise (OCP) is a policy, research and information program supporting the postsecondary education advancement of service members and veterans of the United States armed Forces.  OCP is developing the first multi-state, cross-institutional Veterans’ Graduation Probability Indexes (GPI) to analyze the progress of student veterans.  The GPI will provide the ongoing assessment of the progress of veteran students.   It is designed to begin the process of reviewing progress toward graduation.

It is one thing to get a veteran student to a college campus, but if that veteran student doesn’t receive support services they will not get a degree.  That would be a tragic loss for those who have served the United States with their lives on the line.

Authored by Staff Writer Carol Miraula.