Published on 2013/06/07

Improving Services for Veteran Students

Last week, The American College Health Association held a presentation at an annual meeting to discuss how higher education institutions can best support veterans, one of the nation’s fastest-growing student segments with a range of unique and specific needs.

The presentation was seen as a way to address the fact that higher education institutions are struggling to successfully meet the needs of veteran students.

“Before we get to strategic thinking, we have to think bigger,” Brad J. Badgley, a senior health promotion specialist at Columbia University told Inside Higher Ed. “Based on that big-picture thinking, we can start to look at what we can actually do.”

Bradgley proposed taking a socioecological approach to find solutions to the common and not so common problems faced by this particular student group. Using this model, various areas were addressed and assessed by attendees, including institutional factors and public policy.

Thinking beyond issues faced by traditional-aged students, student services staff and health officials worked in small groups to figure out the most important problems faced by veteran students.

One of the solutions brainstormed involves making registration and transition much smoother for veterans by tweaking processes and services for those particular students. Another suggested solution included surveying veterans so that administrators can better understand what that group wants and needs.

“[Counselors] experience anxiety themselves because they want to do the best they can for the veteran, but they may not be familiar with the military world,” Badgley told Inside Higher Ed.

The presenters at the meeting stated that only 22 percent of all colleges that serve the veteran population are currently offering assistance to help them transition into the post-secondary world.

“When we think outside of the box, really there is no limit to where we can think when we’re working with our students,” Lorri Castro-Zenoni, incoming coalition chair and director of health and wellness services at Salt Lake Community College, told Inside Higher Ed.

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