Published on 2014/04/04
Driving Veteran Success Through Data
Understanding the pathways student veterans take to earn their degrees can provide valuable insights for prospective students trying to better understand the postsecondary landscape.

Deciding which school to attend is one of the most difficult choices a student veteran will make. In addition to considering academic offerings, campus size and location, the financial impact of an education also heavily influences the decision of any veteran. Even with the GI Bill benefits, veterans may need to seek additional financial aid or pay out of pocket to cover unexpected expenses. Student Veterans of America (SVA) aims to provide veterans with a variety of tools and resources they can use to mitigate these obstacles throughout their postsecondary education journey. Just as we review cars, household appliances or electronic devices in our everyday life before making a purchase, student veterans should understand the complete and long-term economic effects of pursuing a postsecondary education.

Data-driven resources, such as SVA’s In-State Tuition Map and the Department of Veteran Affairs’ (VA) GI Bill Comparison Tool, seek to help student veterans make an informed decision. GI Bill benefits are a major contribution to a veteran’s education, but they don’t always cover the full cost of tuition and fees. We also produce an In-State Tuition Map that clearly illustrates which states offer veteran residency waivers for in-state tuition, regardless of their current residency. This waiver helps to minimize the out-of-pocket tuition cost that accrues beyond the GI Bill benefit allotment.

The GI Bill Comparison Tool, available on the VA website, enables veterans to compare the overall financial impact of attending different institutions. We, along with several other veteran service organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and The American Legion, helped to shape this unique tool that empowers veterans to understand how to effectively use their education benefits. Veterans can now use real-time information to review their options, instead of relying on anecdotes or speculation.

Veterans are great assets to our communities, and once enrolled in an institution, they have the opportunity to pair leadership skills gained through service with knowledge learned in the classroom. We support veterans through the combat-college-career transition through various programs and partnerships, all of which are selected through a data-based approach. SVA programs, such as the Leadership Institute Series and Chapter Grants Program, continue to support student veterans’ progress toward degree completion.

The student veterans of today will become the community and business leaders of tomorrow. The return on investment the country experiences after investing in veterans’ education has long been known. After World War II, for every dollar spent on GI Bill benefits, an estimated $7 was returned to the American economy. Understanding the long-term impact of GI Bill benefits plays a valuable role in shaping how they’re most effectively used.

To understand the impact of today’s GI Bill, we recently launched the Million Records Project, which will provide substantiated information that higher education institutions and veteran service organizations can use to better identify the areas where student veterans need additional support. This unprecedented effort is the first comprehensive study to examine how student veterans navigate through and succeed in the postsecondary education system.

While traditional outcome data only tracks first-time, full-time students, the Million Records Project will look at a variety of factors that make a veteran’s education path unique, including time to degree completion, reasons for “stop-outs” (such as deployments and family responsibilities), what programs and services best guide them to success and what policies help them reach their potential. Together with existing tools and programs, the information gained from the Million Records Project will ensure that men and women removing the uniform and returning to campuses across the nation can look forward to a supportive education experience.

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Readers Comments

RF 2014/04/04 at 3:56 pm

I think the points raised here can be extrapolated and applied to adult students in general. Prospective adult students should be given opportunities to fully understand the different pathways they can choose from. Unfortunately, many institutions engage in dishonest marketing and don’t present all of the options to new enrollments. I’ve seen adult students convinced they needed an expensive business administration degree when a specialized certificate would have sufficed, given their already extensive professional experience.

Mike H 2014/04/07 at 4:43 pm

Unfortunately, the government provides little in the way of advisory or other academic support. Student veterans are simply given their GI Bill allowances and sent off to navigate the tough higher education world themselves. In some cases, this has led to institutions (private providers, especially) taking advantage of these students’ naivete (and funding) to enroll them in essentially useless training. The comparison tool and some of the other efforts described by Robinson could go a ways to correcting that.

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