Published on 2014/05/23

Consumer Education Critical to Prospective Student-Veterans

Consumer Education Critical to Prospective Student-Veterans
Consumer education for veterans is critical to their ability to make the right postsecondary decisions as they transition into civilian life.
American veterans may not be getting the information they need to take full advantage of the education options available to them through GI Bill benefits.

Even with the President’s Executive Order 13607, or Principles of Excellence, and recent legislation enacted into law (Public Law 112-249) — both intended to provide more services and supports to veterans — there still may be gaps in meeting the demand for more consumer information.

A report recently issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) supports this claim. The report indicates that over half of veteran respondents wanted more information on the total cost of education covered by VA benefits, type and amount of other forms of financial aid, future employment potential and support services. The results of the survey, however, may not fully reflect the consumer experiences of current student veterans.

GAO surveyed veterans who began using their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits before this new law went into effect. To date, not all of the features of Public law 112-249, signed into law in January 2013, have been fully implemented by the Department of Veterans Affairs. It remains to be seen whether a public feedback system, not to be confused with the complaint system established by the President’s Executive Order, that allows veterans to comment on their experiences at an institution will be useful. With this new tool, current and future student veterans will ideally have access to more information based on peer feedback. Of course, the effectiveness of this new tool is incumbent upon its successful implementation.

A key solution to the demand for more consumer information, though, is within reach. In fact, bipartisan legislation awaits action in both chambers of Congress. House Resolution 631: Servicemembers’ Choice in Transition Act of 2013, introduced by Chairman Bill Flores and Ranking Member Mark Takano of the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, would strengthen the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) by formally linking the optional tracks to the mandatory curriculum.

Currently, there are three optional tracks for transitioning servicemembers, and one is exclusively focused on education. Support for choosing an institution could arguably be addressed in the TAP education track before the servicemember removes the uniform and enrolls in his or her first college course. A bipartisan companion bill, S. 889, introduced last year by Senators John Boozman, Joe Manchin, Jerry Moran and Jon Tester, currently resides in the Senate.

Widespread support exists for both bills, especially among veteran advocates. The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and Student Veterans of America (SVA) testified last year in support of strengthening the TAP program.

Educating future student veterans on the best schools aligned with their academic and professional goals should happen before they remove the uniform. With a little more fine-tuning, TAP could very well fill this void.

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References

[1] The White House Office of the Press Secretary, “Executive Order — Establishing Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses, and Other Family Members,” April 27, 2012, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/04/27/executive-order-establishing-principles-excellence-educational-instituti (May 15, 2014). and

U.S. Government Printing Office, “Comprehensive Veterans Education Information Policy, Public Law 112-249,” January 10, 2013, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-112publ249/html/PLAW-112publ249.htm (May 15, 2014).

[2] U.S. Government Accountability Office, “VA EDUCATION BENEFITS: VA Should Strengthen Its Efforts to Help Veterans Make Informed Education Choices,” May 13, 2014, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-324 (May 15, 2014).

[3] Accessed by reviewing testimony of The American Legion, Student Veterans of America, and Veterans of Foreign Wars, Legislative Hearing, U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, April 10, 2013, http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/legislative-hearing-on-hr-357-hr-562-hr-631-hr-844-hr-1305-hr-1316-hr-1402-a-draft-bill (May 15, 2014).

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Readers Comments

Skepitcal 2014/05/23 at 12:40 pm

Look – veterans are adults, not some special case kids who need to be babied. They have more real-world experience than any college graduates, more discipline, more focus and more determination.

We don’t need to baby our vets – we should make tools available to them but only if they want them.

    Julie F 2014/05/26 at 9:46 am

    You’ve missed the point, Skeptical. It’s not about babying vets. It’s about providing the tools they need to ease their transition back into civilian life.

    Check out the articles by Jo Emanuelson on this site if you want to know more about the veteran experience in higher ed after leaving the service. It’s not easy for them – it’s completely different.

    We as a society have a tendency to see our vets as symbols rather than people. We should do more to make sure they are happy and successful after their service.

Curtis Keller 2014/05/26 at 4:50 pm

The consumer education would presumably come before enrollment, though, to help veterans know which institutions to pick. I don’t think this consumer education should be done by a particular university, though, because it would be very easy to slant prospective customers towards the university providing the programming.

How would/should these consumer education programs be delivered, when would they be taught, and who would teach them?

    Michael 2014/05/27 at 11:38 am

    The remodeled transition assistance program (TAP)is facilitated by the Departments of Defense, Labor, Veterans Affairs and other government agencies which removes the institutions from the process until the servicemember makes a choice based on their academic and career aspirations. Only then would the servicemember be connected to a college or university representative.

    The program is purportedly introduced early in a servicemembers career–as early as their first duty station–which is drastically different from the old TAP. The Defense Department refers to this as the Military Life Cycle Transition Model. I would encourage you to visit dodtap.mil site to learn more about the program.

    Of course, it is not perfect, but this is a leap forward from where the program used to be.

    Finally, the education component is optional and that is the point that is being debated. If more consumer education is needed-per the GAO report–perhaps getting that info to the troops prior to separation is a better option.

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