Tracking our Student Veterans' Progress

Posted March 21, 2013

Written by: Student Veterans of America

Student veterans, and their collective experiences, have garnered much media attention in recent months as tens of thousands return home from Iraq and Afghanistan and Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits have exceeded $23.7 billion.

Unfortunately, some media reports have focused on negative stereotypes of veterans and others have cited incorrect data. Of particular concern, was the announcement that 88 percent of military veterans drop-out in their first year of college. Not only did other organizations regurgitate the unfounded number as fact, but it could have seriously jeopardized future funding for the GI Bill.

There was one positive outcome: the debate surrounding veterans in higher education was infused with a new urgency to track graduation rates nationally.

Student Veterans of America’s recent research brief shed some light on the issue.

Buried statistics in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) 2010 National Survey of Veterans (NSV) and the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) suggest that the majority of veterans complete their degrees or vocational training. Viewed together, these surveys indicate that completion rates are much higher than the erroneously reported 12 percent.

According to the NSV, approximately 68 percent of veteran respondents reported that they received the degree or certificate for which they were receiving VA educational benefits. The ACS survey revealed that approximately 61 percent of veterans attend some college or higher. In contrast, approximately 56 percent of nonveterans reported some college or higher.

While this data is certainly more telling than the debunked 88 percent statistic, more work is needed and SVA has partnered with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Student Clearinghouse to track the national graduation rates of Montgomery and Post-9/11 GI Bill beneficiaries. Analysis of the data will ultimately help identify the drivers of student veteran success and enable policy makers, service-providers, and veteran advocates to make data driven decisions regarding veteran issues in higher education.

Secretary Shinseki announced the collaboration at SVA’s 5th Annual National Conference earlier this year. He said, “This kind of collaboration is critical. The original GI Bill lasted just 12 years; the new GI Bill is now entering its fourth year—the shot clock continues to tick.”

This research is the first step towards understanding the true return on the Post-9/11 GI Bill investment and preserving the benefit for future generations of veterans.