The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs continues to project an increasing number of veterans returning to college to pursue a higher education. With the military downsizing, the ability to transfer benefits to a spouse or dependent, and the 15 years until benefits expire, it is no wonder more veterans are arriving on college campuses every year. With approximately $30 billion in Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits paid out since 2009 to nearly 1 million service members, veterans and families pursuing their educational goals, higher education professionals can equip themselves to better serve this student population through recruitment, retention, graduation and job placement.
In the publication Helping Veterans Succeed, campus professionals call for colleges and universities to be proactive in establishing veterans resource centers, updating policy, and creating programs to better support this nontraditional, dynamic student population.
In August 2013 the Obama Administration announced “8 Keys to Success” that pertain to what the future of veterans services should look like on campuses, including:
- Create a culture of trust and connectedness across the campus community to promote well-being and success for veterans;
- Use a uniform set of data tools to collect and track information on veterans, including demographics, retention and degree completion; and
- Implement an early alert system to ensure all veterans receive academic, career, and financial advice before challenges become overwhelming.
With a growing population of veterans looking to reintegrate into civilian life and pursue a higher education, colleges and universities are in a unique position to help them successfully overcome the challenges they face and use their skills to benefit the entire campus culture.