Military and Veteran Student Achievement in Postsecondary Education: A Structural Equation Model Using the Community College Survey of Men (CCSM)

By De La Garza, Thomas R.; Manuel, Marcus A. et al. | Community College Enterprise, Spring 2016 | Go to article overview

Military and Veteran Student Achievement in Postsecondary Education: A Structural Equation Model Using the Community College Survey of Men (CCSM)


De La Garza, Thomas R., Manuel, Marcus A., Wood, J. Luke, Harris, Frank, III, Community College Enterprise


Military and veteran students have existed in significant numbers in higher education since the end of World War II. The introduction of the Serviceman's Readjustment Act of 1944, more commonly known as the GI Bill, increased veteran enrollment in U.S. colleges to 49% by 1947 (Lang Sc Powers, 2011). Just as college campuses faced an influx of student veterans after the war, community college campuses are today experiencing a new wave of increases in military and veteran enrollment from returning Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) veterans. Similar to veterans from previous eras, the current generation of veterans is seeking to utilize the new and improved Post-9/11 GI Bill to attain postsecondary degrees (Randall, 2012). In some college campuses surveyed, enrollment of military and veteran students have increased by up to 500% since 2009 with an estimated $36 billion in Post-9/11 GI Bill entitlement benefits as of 2013 (Lang, Harriett, & Cadet, 2013). Military service members and veterans often begin their journey into higher education at community colleges. While 43% of postsecondary student veterans are enrolled in community colleges (Radford, 2011), 84% of this student population begins postsecondary education enrolled in two-year institutions (Kim Sc Cole, 2013). Thus, community colleges serve as a critical component of the postsecondary pipeline for student veterans.

Methods to ease transition and ensure academic success for military veterans will continue to engage community college faculty and administrators. A need for specialized services and programs targeting the military and student veteran population will continue based on current military operations (Ackerman, DiRamio, & Mitchell, 2009). Previous research indicates that student veterans often share the risk factors related to other adult learners such as full-time employment, part-time enrollment, delayed entry, and dependents (Wheeler, 2012), in addition to psychological feelings of isolation, disconnectedness, and discomfort in academic settings (Persky & Oliver, 2010). Regardless of the challenges presented to veterans transitioning from a military to civilian lifestyle (and into postsecondary education), student veterans exhibit several positive traits that are conducive to achievement in academic programs. Military and veteran students are generally described as emotionally mature, mission-oriented (focused), and experienced leaders who set the example in both college and workplace settings (Lighthall, 2012). Additionally, student veterans are typically older and often rate their own leadership abilities above those of nonmilitary student peers (Lang & Powers, 2011). Presently, few quantitative studies exist on veteran success in postsecondary education, and existing qualitative research has also not accurately identified factors related to veteran achievement or pathways to success in postsecondary education (Olsen, Badger, Sc McCuddy, 2014).

The Community College Survey of Men (CCSM) evaluates predictors of student success for underrepresented and underserved men in community colleges and was originally designed to assist in improving programming and service-delivery for male students (Wood and Harris, 2013). Recent validation efforts also confirmed the CCSM as an assessment tool for addressing the needs of veteran men in community colleges through developing and improving programs that facilitate transition and success in civilian college settings (De La Garza, Wood, Sc Harris, 2015). To further advance understanding of student veterans in postsecondary education, a structural equation model is introduced to test and explain achievement trajectories for this diverse group of students.

Methods

Structural equation modeling is a technique used to depict statistical procedures which include factor analysis, path analysis, and multiple regressions, to visually portray, test, and quantify relationships between variables, factors, and ultimate endogenous variables (Hox & Bechger, 1998; Kline, 2005; Lei Sc Wu, 2007). …

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