When it comes to college, veterans are better off than non-vets

Matt Saintsing
November 30, 2018 - 12:33 pm

Mark Zaleski /For The Tennessean-Nashville

Despite all the challenges that veterans face when they enroll in college, a study released Friday reveals, by most measures, student vets are doing better in college compared to non-veterans. 

Conducted by Veterans Education Success— a nonprofit group that advocates for the GI Bill and other educational programs for veterans and service members—the study analyzes data from the Department of Education to offer a picture of how student vets navigate the waters of learning after the military. 

Here are some key findings:

  • Just one in five veterans who enrolled in a postsecondary program—broadly defined as any education after high school—had left without earning a degree compared to 40 percent of non-veterans. 
  • Additionally, 28 percent of veterans had earned either a certificate or associate’s degree, while only 23 percent of their civilian counterparts did the same. 

The authors note that data from the Department of Education may overstate veteran non-completion in a degree. That’s because veterans are more likely to take breaks from school and then re-enroll. “A circumstance that makes it difficult to say with certainty that they will not at some point return to earn a degree,” the authors write. 

Statesman Journal file

For veterans who did not complete their programs, their demographics line up with risk factors that non-vets face. 

Of the veterans who left higher education without earning a degree they: 

  • Were more likely to be the first in their family to enroll in college
  • Did not have a traditional high-school diploma
  • Are disabled
  • Have dependents
  • And work full-time 

"The multiple risk factors offer clues about the underlying causes of non-completion,” says Walter Ochinko, research director for the study. 

“But while student veterans’ resiliency exceeds that of non-veterans, additional support, be it institutional or federal, would help alleviate some of their risk factors and bolster completion rates even further.”

Specifically, the study's authors recommend the following: 

  • Campus-based daycare for single parents.
  • Funds to augment GI Bill users who go to school part-time such as institutional grants or Department of Education work-study programs.

The study stresses that "programs fostering persistence and attainment must be broad in scope." 

"Addressing only one of the risk factors may be insufficient, institutional support must be more comprehensive," the report reads. 

ID 100453245 © Alexandersikov | Dreamstime.com

How veterans choose to go to school may also be a factor contributing to their success or challenges. University of Maryland University College (UMUC), for example, is a top-ranked online institution that takes special care veterans through its Global Campus. It doesn't matter if you're a recently transitioning service member, or a veteran looking for a career change-- UMUC has over 90 programs and specializations from which to choose. 

The authors note online classes can be especially attractive to older students, many of whom are “juggling family and work responsibilities.” 

 Sponsored by UMUC