Why help veterans?

For the life of me I don't understand this political and media urge to cull the veteran out of the college pack. College campuses are made up of many cohort groups. Older, Married, Minority, Disabled, Non-Trad, just to name a few. Yet they are able to maintain and use the services that the college is providing to all students. This isn't our first Rodeo, we have all had Vets on our campus since WWII and have never set them aside for this kind of special treatment or attention. So why is the Vet so special to get all this special attention and not the rest of the groups? Is it because they have such a lucrative GI Bill that politicals want us to monitor and defend how it is being spent, much like Pells and Loans?”

Is the first comment to this article.

I’ve been thinking about addressing this, but at first I was stumped. Why is the veteran so special? Why do I want to help this group? Why should anyone help this group? They can consider themselves just students, so why should we single them out?

Then I started to think about my research and my thesis from a few years ago. And then all of the reasons started to rush back. Veterans tend to be considered “high risk” students, similar to most non-traditional students. Some risks:

  • The longer students are in school, the less likely they are to graduate
  • Adult students don’t want to learn the same thing they know (meaning giving credit for military or work experience is important to them)
  • They can have trouble connecting to traditional aged students
  • Some don’t believe they are eligible for VA benefits
So, first we’ll look at the “public good” of focusing on veterans: When adults complete their higher education goals, they tend to stay where they were educated.   Veterans offer a connection many Americans no longer have: one to the military side of our culture, to those who serve and protect, to those who gave some or all for the freedoms we enjoy every day. People who are more educated tend to have a higher rate of civic participation, contribute more to the tax base, participate in volunteer activities, and assist with building communities. Yes, studies prove all of the above. So, offering veterans a chance at higher ed allows our communities to grow and be more stable.

Then we’ll go to the financial side of things. Veterans, or their family members, who use GI Bill funds to assist with their education bring guaranteed money to campus. These funds are not loans and do not count for or against the institution’s reliance on federal funds. The more veterans feel comfortable at a institution, the more they will spread the word on that institution and the more veterans will apply. Meaning, if a college sets up an office and employs one or two people for less than $100,000 (say $80,000) a year these two people could raise more than they cost within two years (sometimes more, sometimes less). Say Midrange State College costs $40,000 a year. If three veterans attend full-time, the GI Bill can pay up to total tuition, meaning just those three vets can bring in $120,000 a year. If they attend for four years, that’s $480,000, meaning that one office brought in a profit of $160,000 over four years. Say there are six veterans, then it’s a profit of $640,000. It is WAY more complicated than that, but you get the idea.

Next, we’ll talk about value at the university. Veterans, studies have shown, bring invaluable diversity to college classrooms. They bring years of employment experience, leadership training, and group work with them into every aspect of their lives. They often have families and strong community ties that can influence them and their classmates. Many veterans want to continue to give back and will volunteer in the community, which, once again, can influence their classmates.

So, if a college focuses on this one high-risk population, there are three benefits: public good is served, money is put into the coffers, and value is added to the education provided. But mostly I want to help veterans because veterans deserve the help and I think we ought to do everything we can for the men, women, and their families to help them succeed in the civilian world.


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