Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

CAREER and LIFE TRANSITIONS of VETERANS ENROLLED in COMMUNITY COLLEGES and PROGRAMS DEVELOPED to MEET THEIR NEEDS

Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

CAREER and LIFE TRANSITIONS of VETERANS ENROLLED in COMMUNITY COLLEGES and PROGRAMS DEVELOPED to MEET THEIR NEEDS

Article excerpt

Abstract

Colleges and universities have devoted more resources to meet the needs of a growing population of student veterans and research has increased understanding of the new generation of veterans, but community colleges face distinct challenges that are not fully discussed and most research has focused on veterans in four-year institutions. This article surveys studies that compare the responses of two-year and four-year institutions to their student veterans and reviews recommendations to provide better services for veterans, focusing on suggestions related to career and life transitions of veterans at community colleges.

Introduction

More than one-third (36%) of 308,000 undergraduate, post-9/11 veterans in fall 2012 were enrolled in community colleges (Queen and Lewis, 2014). A percentage this high indicates that veterans are deliberately choosing to attend community colleges because the Post-9/11 GI Bill pays tuition up to the level of the highest tuition at a public university in the state. With sufficient support for returning veterans, community col- leges offer a valuable transition from military service to civilian life. The current literature, however, is weighted heavily toward researching the experience of veterans in four-year institutions and the responses of those institutions to this student population. This article will refer to differences between veterans at two-year public colleges and four- year institutions, and survey information on programming relevant to community colleges, with a specific interest in veterans' career and life transitions. It will provide some perspective on challenges confronted by community colleges during the five years since passage of the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Recommendations from the Life beyond War white paper (Whitley, Tshudi & Gieber, 2013) will be discussed as they apply to com- munity colleges.

The transition of post-9/11 veterans to college campuses has received increasing attention in the past two or three years. In August 2013, President Obama outlined 8 Keys to Success for colleges to follow. The American Council on Education (ACE) added extensive information to its web-site (http://www.acenet.edu/higher-education/Pages/Military- Students-and-Veterans.aspx). Reports such as Invisible Wounds of War (Taniellian, T., et. al. 2008) have borne fruit with information on PTSD and TBI for veterans (and others) who have endured traumatic experi- ences, as well as materials to prepare college staff members for veterans returning to their campuses. A Washington Post/Kaiser poll (Washington Post, 2014), published while this article was being written, added to and updated the profile of Post 9/11 veterans.

Individual colleges, including community colleges, have received some funding to develop resources. The Veterans Training Support Center at Edmonds Community College (WA), for example, has published, among other resources, Promising Best Practices: Veteran-Supportive Institu- tions of Higher Education (Lovitt, 2013), which lists 50 best practices to support returning veterans with the names of colleges in the Seattle area that have adopted them.

Research into Veterans at Community Colleges

Research in the past five or six years has defined issues facing this new generation of veterans as they enroll in higher education. A Prudential Financial publication (2012) provides the best information available to date on veterans' career and employment challenges, which has clear im- plications for community colleges that need to understand this population of veterans. When asked about their greatest challenges to transitioning from military to civilian life, the greatest concern (69%) was finding a job (p. 4). Programs that prepare students quickly for employment ap- peal to many veterans.

"Figuring out what's next" (50%) was one of a cluster of challenges cited in the Prudential report. Of the 44% who indicated they were not ready for transition, 47% indicated they "need time to figure out what to do with my life" (p. …

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