May has been National Military Appreciation Month, a month that honors current and former U.S. military service members. One of the best ways to honor our service members is to celebrate their efforts and successes as student veterans, actively engaged in higher education.
As nontraditional students enroll in classes they are very apt to find military service members and US military veterans among their fellow students. The Post 9/11 GI Bill makes benefits available to military-connected students to complete their higher education. Since 2009 more than a million veterans have pursued higher education, according to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families.
Student veterans face many of the same challenges as civilian nontraditional students – and then some. A report from the National Veteran Education Success Tracker (NVEST) shows that, like their nontraditional peers, student veterans are older. Over half were more than 22 years old when they first started their post-secondary academic program. Many have families and are employed. They may have service-connected disabilities. Some student veterans such as reservists and guard members are still connected to the military and may face interruptions in their enrollments due to unplanned unit activations.
In spite of these challenges they find success in pursuing higher education. Student veterans have completion rates equal to or better than others. The student veteran completion rate is 53.6 percent compared to the national completion rate of 52.9 percent and the completion rate for adult learners of 39.2 percent.
Many colleges and universities seek ways to support their military connected students and student veterans. The Association of American Colleges and Universities reports that 57 percent of higher ed institutions have programs and services have programs for services members and veterans and 60 percent of these schools view these programs as part of their long-term plans.
Student veterans have similar motivations for completing higher education as other nontraditional students. Career and job opportunities are a main reason that student veterans seek an education as well as self-improvement and personal growth. Student veterans also cite the potential for improving their economic status and professional advancement.
Often those who have served in the military find greater rewards from their higher education than those who don’t have military experiences.
• Veterans with bachelor’s degrees earn an average of $17,000 more per year than workers without military experiences
• Veterans with advanced degrees earn nearly $30,000 more per year.
• 25 percent of Veterans earn more than one degree or certificate.
Just like other nontraditional students, student veterans bring diversity to the higher education experience. They bring life experiences and cultural diversity to their education. Experience in the military has taught them discipline and a strong work ethic. Employers today are looking for many of the “soft skills” that student veterans have learned such as teamwork, leadership and the ability to adapt to challenges.
In 1999 Senator John McCain introduced the legislation that designated May as National Military Appreciation Month. In the 20 years since that time, thousands of military personal have served their country in many ways. As veterans, those who have pursued higher education continue to serve with higher education achievements that contribute to the United States.
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