How HEI’s can respond to the needs of Veteran Students
Student veterans are not a new presence on campus, but this population has the potential to increase as a result of the drawdown of conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq which will enable more veterans to participate in postsecondary education. The anticipated increase in the student veteran population suggests that postsecondary institutions prepare to serve this group by identifying their needs and characteristics.
What institutions are doing to prepare for student veterans.
To help student veterans sort out the multiple options available to them in higher education, this site provides information to help veterans who are interested in pursuing their education by providing details about specific colleges and their programs for student veterans. One veteran who took advantage of the veteranstudents.org.uk website applied through UCAS and was accepted to Plymouth University in 2019 and say’s that he has had a very positive educational experience on campus.
Despite the abundance of issues about the transition experiences of the student veterans, relatively little is known about today’s student veteran population. Two studies provide information for institutions about the anticipated student veteran population and some of the issues the student veterans face. The studies describe a basis for HEI’s of information from which to begin planning programs, practices, and policies to serve today’s student veterans.
• Provide professional development and training for faculty and staff on how to work with veterans.
• Pursue funding sources and search for grants to assist with the cost of offering programs for veterans.
• Increase the number of programs and train counselling staff to accommodate veterans’ health issues including post-traumatic brain injury, were tied for third place.
• Establish a veteran centre and increase staff participation.
• Increase budget.
Another report asked HEI’s to identify their most urgent student problems; 75% listed financial aid and retention. It is interesting to note that although retention is rated at 75%, less than a quarter of the institutions who serve veterans have a streamlined re-enrollment process to help students who are deployed mid-semester and must therefore leave mid-semester. The majority of institutions require the students to re-enrol through the traditional avenue when they return from deployment: “Only 22 per cent of institutions with programs and services for military personnel have developed an expedited re-enrollment process to help them restart their academic efforts”. Of the 22% of institutions that reported an expedited re-enrollment process for veterans, 16% of the institutions actually require students to begin the application process again, with no acknowledgement of their previous enrollment and interrupted status. Sixty-two per cent of the institutions allow students returning from deployment to utilize the standard re-enrollment process. The message given by the institutions is a confusing one. The majority of institutions identify retention as one of their primary concerns, but the processes to accommodate students who must interrupt their studies due to military service do not facilitate re-entry and eventual completion of an academic program.
The age ranges of student veterans are similar to those of the non-military independent undergraduate population, with the largest percentage of student veteran attendees in the 24 to 29 age range, followed by the 30 to 39 age range at 28.2%. The over-40 age group represents 24.9% of the student veteran population and the students under 23 represent 15.5% of the student veteran population. Regarding marital status, 35.3% of the student veteran population is unmarried with no dependents and 32.5% of the independent student veteran population is married with children. Those married with no dependents and single parents comprise about 29.3% of the independent undergraduate student veteran population with 14.8% and 14.5% respectively.
Military undergraduate students made up 4% of all postsecondary undergraduates. Within this group, 43% chose to attend community colleges.
” One of the most important steps that campus
leadership can take is to gauge the specific needs
of veterans at their institution before devoting
resources to new initiatives…. Both student veterans
and campus administrators have spoken to
the success of efforts that have been created with
direct input from the enrolled student veteran
population and have emphasized this is the best
approach to designing supportive programs.
Six practices implemented by institutions attempting to proactively meet the needs of this population: (a) identify specific points of contact on campus for student/veterans;
(b) create a multidiscipline campus working group;
(c) collaborate with community organisations to provide services;
(d) establish a student veterans campus group, educate faculty and staff about student veteran issues, and establish a space designated for veterans use only;
(e) veteran-specific campus learning communities;
(f) streamline veteran and disability services.
The services that colleges and universities are most likely to offer to veterans are financial aid counselling, employment assistance, and academic advising, services offered by 57%, 49%, and 48% of the institutions, respectively. Another finding is that schools with a small percentage of student veterans are less likely to have special programs or offices devoted to assisting this population. However, this is understandable considering institutions’ emphasis on cost control and cost-benefit relationships.
Services to student veterans which were offered in fewer than 25% of the institutions included transition assistance to college, a veteran student lounge, and an orientation tailored to veterans. However, student veterans, when asked, have reported the need to connect with other veterans on campus as being very important to them. A veteran student lounge and veteran orientation would be beneficial in providing opportunities for veterans on campus to get acquainted with each and establish some type of informal support system. Clubs or other veteran support organisations exist on only 32% of the campuses. At community colleges, only 7% of the campuses have veterans clubs or organisations.
Examples of Institutional Programs
The needs of student veterans on campus go beyond academic challenges. Academic difficulties are often the least of their issues. Campus mental health services need to be proactive in serving student veterans. Ideally, these programs would be offered cooperatively with professional services. Community college counsellors confirm that student veterans seek help for PTSD and other problems and report that they are often overwhelmed with students needing assistance with personal and/or mental health problems.
One in five combat veterans report having a disability, compared with one in 10 nonveterans. Veterans also spend more time working or caring for a family than do traditional college students. This parallels the four categories of classifications of challenges facing adults in postsecondary education: entry challenges, individual life cycles, societal changes, and the unique circumstances accompanying individuals as they enter the academic community. These are further reinforced by the notion that approximately one-third of the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have one or more of these after-effects of the war.
The student veteran population has a unique set of needs as a result of their military experiences.
Veteranstudents.org.uk works extensively with the veteran student population both on campus and in consulting work. They advocate strong faculty involvement in identifying and treating student veteran issues.
A one-stop resource centre for veterans, active-duty personnel, and dependents. With a part-time trained advisor to help with the Veterans. It provides a dedicated lounge area for student veterans and is outfitted in a manner conducive to studying as well as providing a quiet place for reflection and decompression in a supportive environment.
The purpose of the program is to help student veterans find a campus community and use the skills and characteristics developed as a result of military service to create a successful academic experience. Included in this program is the recognition that some of the veterans have conditions beyond the “normal” adjustment from military to civilian to a college student. Another consideration is that it can be implemented by maximizing existing college programs of student support and with minimal cost to adapting these programs to serve/apply to the student veteran population.
A program that provides continuity between recovery and life as a student veteran. An initiative for Severely Injured Military Veterans which “aims to help these veterans by ensuring they receive the full support of the higher education community”. This assistance program begins as veterans are still recovering in the hospital. They meet with academic advisors who help them identify career and/or academic goals and then determine a path of action to achieve those goals.
They receive therapy and curriculum to help them understand the nature of their injury; “They are learning to develop new life skills, memory enhancement techniques, and other strategies” for example coping with traumatic brain injury.
With our military out of Iraq and funding for global military operations on the decline, thousands of newly discharged men and women are trying to figure out “What’s next?” Most of our Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Sailors joined the military before their 21st birthday, and it’s often the only job they’ve ever held. While it’s […]
How HEI’s can respond to the needs of Veteran Students Student veterans are not a new presence on campus, but this population has the potential to increase as a result of the drawdown of conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq which will enable more veterans to participate in postsecondary education. The anticipated increase in the student […]
Because the student veteran population brings unique experiences to the learning stage it is important to develop programs which accommodate these experiences. Engagement Services identify colleges and universities as being in a good position to assist student veterans with their education and their reintegration into civilian society. At the 2019 Conference on Improving College Education […]
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), not to be confused with traumatic brain injury (TBI), is another challenge facing many student veterans. This condition is often not readily apparent to those interacting with the student veterans and yet affects a person’s interaction with others and outlook on life as reported in a 2008 monograph entitled Invisible Wounds […]
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Transition involves reintegration into the civilian community after active duty service. The changes from life in the military community to life as a civilian may include relocation, loss of social support systems, reintegration into a civilian lifestyle, different or nonexistent health care services, and possibly a new job or career path. While adjusting to the […]