Student veterans: An untapped asset on campus and at work

October 15, 2018
  • Enrollment Management
  • Meetings, Workshops, and Trainings
  • SEM Conference
  • Veterans and Service Members
a male in turquoise scrubs with a stethoscope around his neck stands outside with a coffee

Student veterans tend to be overlooked by college recruitment strategies, according to representatives from Student Veterans of America (SVA).

“According to recent surveys, educators and even veterans themselves have the perception that veterans don’t do well in post-service life, don’t do well in careers and don’t pursue degrees,” said James Schmeling, Executive Vice President of SVA. “That perception is wrong.”

Dispelling myths
“Veterans are an untapped, vital resource for colleges,” said Dr. Chris Cate, Vice President of Research at SVA. “Their military service and background makes them persistent and resilient, and also makes them eligible for funding and VA benefits that are not available to civilians.”

According to data reported by the SVA, on average, veterans not only pursue degrees at higher rates, but they earn higher incomes than civilians. For example, veterans with bachelor’s degrees tend to outearn their civilian peers by $17,000 a year, and veterans with advanced degrees tend to outearn their civilian counterparts by more than $29,000 a year. Additionally, veterans from certain marginalized populations, including women, African Americans, and Latinos/as, all attain degrees at higher rates than their civilian counterparts.

“The most comparable student population to veterans is international students,” said Schmeling. Both groups include about one million students -- over $14 billion in tuition revenue -- and tend to pursue similar degrees, he noted. Furthermore, both international and veteran populations average higher graduation rates and higher GPAs (3.35 veterans, 3.4 international) than traditional student populations (2.94).

“When you compare spending on international student recruitment, services and programs to veterans’ programs, it’s pretty clear that most institutions are investing differently,” Schmeling said. “We think that’s primarily because decision-makers in higher education have no idea how well veterans perform.”

Serving veterans sets the stage for success with other nontraditional students
As anyone who works in higher education knows, the demographics of incoming students are changing. The ‘traditional,’ straight-out-of-high school student is fast being replaced by non-traditional students: adults, transfers, and first-generation students are moving into the majority. These students have different needs and expectations than 18-year-old freshmen. They may have jobs and families to support. That’s also likely with student veterans.

“So if you get it right with student veterans, you’ll probably set the stage for success with other nontraditional students,” Schmeling said.

To better understand this overlooked population and learn what you can do to recruit and serve student veterans, check out SVA’s session at the 2018 AACRAO SEM Conference, November 11-14, 2018, in Washington, D.C.