Our Country’s Best Deserve Nothing Less: Five Elements to Effectively Meet the Higher Education Needs of Veterans
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Our Country’s Best Deserve Nothing Less: Five Elements to Effectively Meet the Higher Education Needs of Veterans

Providing all non-traditional students with the structure they need to succeed is critical for higher education institutions, but especially important when it comes to serving veterans.

We’ve all enjoyed the heartwarming news stories of returning servicemen and women being kissed by their spouses, hugged by their children and tackled by the family pet. But what happens after the welcome-home festivities are over?

One of the most critical questions facing our veterans as they settle back into civilian life is, “How do I get a job?” The answer for many is to go back to school.

A report by the American Council on Education (ACE) titled, “Military Service Members and Veterans in Higher Education,” found some key factors that influence college selection among this population: cost, location, credit for military training and experience and how well an institution accommodates veterans and their needs. These factors align with the five key elements required to meet the higher education needs of veterans.

1. Flexible Courses:

More often than not, veterans returning to school are also working full-time and supporting a family. In fact, the ACE report found that 48 percent of undergraduate service member students are married and 47 percent are raising children. Flexibility in course offerings is key. More and more institutions understand this and are offering evening and weekend courses, as well as completely online programs. This is critical for veteran students to fit education into their schedule while fulfilling their job responsibilities and the needs of their family.

2. Affordable Tuition:

It is important for veterans to know they can get the most out of their earned education benefits. Colleges and universities should clearly state the costs associated with their courses and degrees up front.

3. Maximum Transfer Credit:

The average service member attends multiple institutions of higher education before completing a degree. Because of this, it is important to both service members and veterans to get maximum credit for previous college coursework and military training as it shortens the time it takes to earn their degree. Students should not have to re-take courses in which they have already mastered the competencies. It is a waste of time and valuable tuition dollars.

4. Comprehensive Student Support:

As veterans transition from military to civilian life and embark on a new educational journey, proper support both in and out of the classroom is necessary to their success. From the minute students step through an institution’s door, they should be provided a full circle of attentive, one-on-one support that includes admissions representatives, student advisors, veteran services staff, faculty, a learning center and career services department.

5. Veteran-Friendly Career Services:

The goal of any veteran pursuing a degree is to secure gainful employment. It is important for an institution’s Career Services department to understand veterans and effectively teach them how to package their military experience and education for the job market. For example, Grantham University’s Career Services department not only teaches veterans how to present themselves, but is dedicated to educating employers on the benefits of hiring a veteran. An in-depth study of 69 companies entitled, “Employing America’s Veterans – Perspectives from Business,” by the Military, Veterans and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security found that veterans bring the following qualities to the workplace: leadership and teamwork skills, character, structure and discipline, expertise, ability to perform and make decisions in a dynamic environment, the ability to “get the job done,” resiliency and loyalty. Educating both veterans and their potential employers is a two-pronged approach to helping the former secure gainful employment.

It is important for all institutions of higher learning that serve the military and veteran population to provide a flexible, accredited, competitively priced and substantive education that positions them for success in their chosen field. After all, our students gave us their best. They deserve nothing less from us.

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3 Responses to Our Country’s Best Deserve Nothing Less: Five Elements to Effectively Meet the Higher Education Needs of Veterans

  1. Henry Smalling Reply

    2013/02/07 at 10:56 pm

    This is where a competency-based model of education would be useful, even more useful than transfer credit acceptance. Competency-based education recognizes prior learning, in the general sense of the word, whereas transfer credits still require students to have completed traditional coursework to receive credit. As outlined in the “Employing America’s Veterans” report you reference, servicemen and women and veterans already have an incredible array of competencies. It would be a shame not to recognize them.

  2. Frank Gowen Reply

    2013/02/08 at 3:33 pm

    I agree with all of the points raised, particularly #4 and #5. Some may have the misconception that military personnel are the same as other adult students but, in reality, they have a different set of needs. It’s important that career and other student support services are aware of that and cater specifically to their students with a military background.

    Thank you, Dr. Cropsey, for bringing this to our attention, and thank you to our brave men and women, who truly deserve the best that higher education can give them!

  3. Ursula V.F. Reply

    2013/02/10 at 1:32 pm

    My understanding is that servicemen and women and veterans are eligible to receive tuition assistance as a result of their service. What might be helpful, then, is for institutions to enhance that support by waiving additional fees or offering extra services. Institutions need to start thinking outside of the box in order to attract and retain servicemen and women, and ensure they’re sent off with the right skills and training to embark on their post-service lives.

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