Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

VETERAN SERVICES in HIGHER EDUCATION: Going above and Beyond

Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

VETERAN SERVICES in HIGHER EDUCATION: Going above and Beyond

Article excerpt

Abstract

Veterans transitioning from military service to the civilian culture face unique challenges, particularly within institutions of higher education. As colleges and universities adapt services to meet these needs, it is important to understand veterans as non-traditional students and tailor services accordingly. Professionals in higher education can take these services a step further by embracing some familiar terminology within the military culture such as teamwork, transition, and assistance. This article will highlight services offered at a four-year university which go above and beyond the basic recommendations for veteran programs in higher education.

Introduction

Veteran-specific programs at colleges/universities may not be new to aca- demia, but comprehensive support services seem to finally be catching up with the demand as millions of veterans from the Global War on Terror campaigns have returned to the university setting to utilize the benefits provided through the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill (Hamrick, Rumann, & Associ- ates, 2013). On March 24, 2014, the Student Veterans of America re- leased preliminary findings in the Million Records Project, describing the most recent data on student veteran success in higher education. While the report shows promising improvements in certain areas, a 51.7% rate of program completion (Cate, 2014) indicates that there are still signifi- cant challenges which need to be addressed. Improvements in higher education can increase the success of not only student veterans, but also the American economy because veteran unemployment rates decrease as their education level increases (U.S. Department of Labor, 2011). To meet the needs of this unique population of non-traditional students, institutions of higher education could benefit from understanding student veteran challenges, developing appropriate solutions, and continuing to refine their services based upon assessment data.

What are the most salient challenges?

Not only are veterans in higher education experiencing a transition out of the military into civilian life, they are also transitioning into the culture of academia, sometimes simultaneously. A study by the Pew Research Center (2011) reported that 44% of recent veterans describe their ad- justment to civilian life as difficult. Some of the reported challenges of readjustment include strains in family relations (48%), coping with post- traumatic stress (37%), and feeling that the American public does not understand the difficulties faced by service members (84%). Add to these challenges, an adjustment to the academic culture, which emphasizes individual accomplishment, independent organization, and a fairly slow pace, all of which are directly opposite of the military culture (Hamrick et al., 2013). Top all of those challenges off with a complicated, strictly regulated system to access VA education benefits, and the scope of transi- tion hurdles become evident.

When compiling the various obstacles experienced during the transition from military culture to the academic world and beyond, institutions of higher education have indicated that frustrations typically arise from the following general sources: financial issues (either personal, familial, or VA policies), social acculturation (orienting to the civilian or academic world), and barriers to accessing physical and behavioral health services (Lang, Harriett, & Cadet, 2013; McBain, Kim, Cooke, & Snead, 2012). While many of these challenges are beyond the scope of college educa- tors or administrators, an appreciation of their genesis is necessary to understand the context of veterans' frustrations, and to develop rapport. Yet, some challenges in higher education have practical solutions that are achievable for burgeoning veterans' programs.

What are the solutions?

While there have been many publications, reports, and studies pertaining to the services for student veterans, the list of recommendations below from the "Life Beyond War" (Whitley, Tshudi, & Gieber, 2013) report is fairly comprehensive, and can serve as a foundational guide for all col- lege programs referring to themselves as "veteran friendly. …

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