Published on 2014/07/18

Five Ways to Create Success for Veterans in Higher Education (Part 1)

Five Ways to Create Success for Veterans in Higher Education (Part 1)
The most significant factor administrators must be aware of when working with veteran students is their desire to regain their sense of service and community.
When veterans leave the military, the two things they quickly find they have lost is their sense of service and their community. These two integral aspects — defining what it means to be a man or woman of service and what they have so skillfully gained from their experience in the military — are keys to their future success. For many veterans, they hope to regain this sense of community and service upon entering higher education, while being able to further the skills they have learned in the military; this is what higher education officials must understand when appealing to veterans.

Colleges and universities must create environments where veterans can thrive using the highly desirable skills they obtained during service, which veterans so greatly desire to showcase. By doing so, higher education institutions will not only attract veterans to their schools, but will also retain them.

When higher education institutions create effective environments that support veteran student learning, it’s mutually advantageous for both the veteran and the university. However, trying to find solutions to this must come from the veteran’s population first.

Here are the first two of the five strategies that I find to be highly successful when it comes to developing these environments for veteran students.

1. Hire a Veteran Coordinator

Hiring a veteran coordinator who is a veteran can clear many roadblocks that universities face. When prospective veteran students want to learn about a school and how their military skills will translate toward a degree or how their benefits will work at that particular university, it’s extremely important the university knows exactly where that veteran is coming from. In the same way that a guidance counselor or college recruiter can guide a high school student toward the right school and right program, a veteran coordinator can help veterans. The veteran coordinator should preferably be previously senior enlisted or a mid-level officer, who can then act as a mentor in this process.

2. Create a Sense of Service

Providing a sense of service back into veterans’ lives can be extremely advantageous to the learning process at the university. For example, this can mean giving veterans job opportunities within the university. Schools can take advantage of the Veterans Affairs Works Studies program that is paid for by Veterans Affairs and is no cost to the university. This allows veterans to work within the university in varying capacities. Veterans can work with other veterans to facilitate new student applications. In doing this, the university will not have to hire new staff to facilitate an influx of new veteran populations and will also provide the student veteran with a sense of service to other vets.

This is the first of a two-part series by Nathan Sable outlining the five most effective strategies to creating a supportive environment for veteran students. Please click here to read the conclusion.

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Readers Comments

Tyrese Banner 2014/07/18 at 9:39 am

It will be interesting to read the rest of this series. I see the value in creating a sense of service not just among veteran students but among all students. Another, somewhat related, issue is how to integrate veteran students into the main campus. A sense of service will only help make veteran students feel welcome if they also feel a sense of community.

Suzanne Collins 2014/07/18 at 11:54 am

It’s extremely important to have a designated coordinator to help veteran students navigate the transition into higher ed. As someone who’s worked with veteran students for almost a decade, I can say that their needs and expectations are extremely different from those of other incoming students. Being able to meet with a coordinator who’s familiar with their concerns at the start of their programs goes a long way to making them feel valued and part of the institution.

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