Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

LIFE BEYOND WAR: Supporting the Mental Health Needs of Student Veterans

Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

LIFE BEYOND WAR: Supporting the Mental Health Needs of Student Veterans

Article excerpt


Two symposia were held to identify recommendations for serving student veterans enrolled in higher education. Administrators, educators, veterans, and student veterans participated in the symposia. All participants had experience with student veterans and represented four- and two-year colleges or universities from both rural and urban locations. The group focused on supporting the mental health needs of student veterans, which resulted in 12 recommendations that were shared by a webcast with other colleges and universities.


The HSC Foundation and The National Veterans Center partnered with The Graduate School of Education and Human Development's Department of Counseling and Human Development at The George Washington University on a project to improve support for post-9/11 veterans with disabilities enrolled in higher education programs. The project resulted in twelve recommendations.


Two symposia were conducted, one in October 2012 and another in March 2013. Approximately 15 university and college representatives, veterans, and advocates participated in each symposium. A cross-section including both four- and two-year schools and both urban and suburban schools attended. Session topics focused on veterans' needs, challenges in serving the need, practices that have been successful, and gaps in ser- vices and resources needed to provide services.

A professional facilitator guided panel and group discussions. The findings and recommendations from the first symposium informed and guided the development of the agenda for the second symposium. After a comprehensive discussion, it was determined that the most overarching issue facing student veterans is mental health needs.

This paper captures recommended suggestions to provide the best pos- sible accommodations to student veterans as they transition from the military to civilian life on a college campus. Further, the recommended solutions could serve as an excellent model for a veteran friendly cam- pus.

Post 9/11 Veterans in Higher Education

Veterans are enrolling in higher education at record rates (O'Herrin, 2011). Given the demographic and experiential differences that veterans bring to college campuses, it is not surprising they may need different or additional accommodations. Unlike college students enrolled in tradi- tional 4-year universities, veterans tend to be older, are more likely to be married, may have children, experienced one or more traumatic events, and been placed in situations that demand maturity and responsibility (American Council on Education, 2008). Many of the returning veterans have a physical, emotional, or cognitive disability (Ely, 2008; O'Herrin, 2011). Campuses need to understand the issues faced by veterans for them to be successful in higher education (American Council on Educa- tion, 2008).

Veterans are ethnically diverse, with non-Hispanic whites accounting for two-thirds of veterans under 39 (American Council on Education, 2008; Radford, 2009; O' Herrin, 2011). The proportion of female veterans is on the rise as well. Thirty years ago only 4% of the veteran population was women, whereas today it is approximately 14%. The active military and veteran population comprises around 4% of the undergraduate popu- lation in the United States, of which 75% are veterans (Radford, 2009; O' Herrin, 2011). The veteran population has a very different demographic profile than that of their traditional, non-military student counterpart. Of the 62% of veteran undergraduates 33% are married with a child, 15% are married with no children, and 14% are single parents. An additional 35% are unmarried with no children and 3% are dependents (Ely, 2008; Radford, 2009).

In addition to demographic differences, veteran undergraduates select colleges for different reasons. Seventy-five percent of veteran under- graduates look at location as the primary factor, followed by program or degree at 52% and cost at 47% (American Council on Education, 2008; Radford, 2009). …

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