November 11, 2011
A study released yesterday has found that student veterans enrolled at colleges and universities that provide them with additional support have higher grades, retention and graduation rates.
The report, titled "Completing the Mission: A Pilot Study of Veteran Students' Progress Toward Degree Attainment in the Post 9/11 Era," was prepared by Operation College Promise and the Pat Tillman Foundation. It examined a sample of student veterans studying at institutions which provide strong support to veterans: Arizona State University, Mississippi State University, Montclair State University, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Texas State University, University of North Carolina at Charlotte and University of South Florida.
As Inside Higher Ed reported, the study found that student veterans enrolled in those schools earned an average GPA of 3.04, and their retention rate from fall 2010 to spring 2011 was 94 percent--significantly higher than the national average of 75 percent for first- to second-year retention. Moreover, approximately 71 percent of students earned all the credits they pursued, with an average of 24 credits for the academic year.
According to the report, since August 2009, over 500,000 veterans have used Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, which provide financial help for student veterans. Officials say that number is expected to rise, and colleges must be better equipped to support veterans.
"The concern is that it's one thing to get a veteran student to a college campus, but if that veteran student gets to campus and doesn't receive support services they will not get a degree," noted Wendy Lang, director of Operation College Promise, who was quoted by Inside Higher Ed. "And that's the real tragic loss."
Veterans face unique challenges in college. They can experience delays receiving GI Bill funding, or face problems when they must be deployed in the middle of a semester.
"The transition from military to civilian life can be difficult," noted Bob Mitchell, an educational specialist who was interviewed by the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, New York. "Adding school can make it even more so."
Jason Stam, a student veteran at Monroe Community College, agreed. "When you have to live seven months praying to God that every step you take is not going to be that bomb that burns you up, that shot that comes ripping through--that's hard to live with when you are only 20 years old," he told the Democrat and Chronicle.
Fortunately, as the report found, many colleges are taking steps to address veterans' needs. At Richard Stockton College, for example, a veterans services team helps with career planning, counseling, admissions and financial aid. Patrick Shields, coordinator of Stockton's veterans affairs, noted in an interview with The Press of Atlantic City that the college has at least 150 students who have identified themselves as military. Last year, the school also opened a Veterans' Lounge, providing students with a place to relax.
Compiled by Yaffa Klugerman
"Atlantic County Schools Help Veterans Find Aid Toward College Degrees," pressofatlanticcity.com, November 10, 2011, Diane D'Amico
"College Brings Back Sense of Normalcy for Veterans," democratandchronicle.com, November 11, 2011, James Goodman
"Student Veterans Do Better Than Peers When Given Support Services," insidehighered.com, November 11, 2011, Elizabeth Murphy