Veterans Choosing Colleges

By Debbie Gregory.

Veteran students are flooding college campuses across the country as military members leave the uniform behind and head back to the classroom to secure a new career.

Administrators, however, are finding that veteran students are choosing less traditional schools and more veteran friendly colleges where they can earn their degrees in a shorter time, with less distraction. Veteran students arrive on campus with the motivation they learned in the military.

Dan Torres, an official with the Veterans Service Office at Butte College, said veteran students are serious. “When you join the military, you learn things,” Torres said. “Just like they did in the service, veteran students have a mission.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that in 2009-10, the first full academic year education benefits were available under the revised G.I. Bill, enrollment among veterans at for-profit private universities was significantly higher than at four-year public institutions. In 2012, one for profit school alone had more than 21,000 veteran students on its rolls. Veteran students have also widely chosen community colleges.

The swell of veteran students across college campuses is due, in part, to the generous educational benefits of the  Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, which was rewritten after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Now, veteran students receive benefits not just for tuition, but also for the cost of books, fees and  housing. Qualifying veterans can also transfer their benefits to their spouse or children.

In recent years, many local colleges have transformed to become veteran friendly schools. Some have instituted offices of veterans’ affairs, while some schools offer additional financial assistance to veteran students.

Derek Evans, a student at Chico State who is also an official with the campus Veterans Affairs Office, said veterans come to his office to receive their veteran education benefits. Money for veteran education, he said, is one of the easiest VA programs for veterans to access.

Veteran students may also be hitting the books because there are so few options in the job market. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2011, unemployment among veterans ages 18 to 24 was at 30 percent, versus 18 percent for that age group in the general population.

According to Evans, as troops previously deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan return home, the school is prepared to handle far larger enrollment numbers.

“I believe we’re expecting a higher number of new veteran students next semester than ever before,” he said.