Facts & Figures – "Talent Hiding in Plain Sight": The Success of Student Veterans
According to Student Veterans of America (SVA), their recent National Veteran Education Success Tracker (NVEST) report and fact sheet are “the first comprehensive, in-depth study of the academic success of the contemporary student veteran using the Post-9/11 GI Bill,” the most recent of six versions of the GI Bill passed by Congress since 1944. By searching the National Student Clearinghouse database and examining 853,111 records from the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the study’s authors looked at the demographics and success of student veterans who used the Post-9/11 GI Bill to attend college between August 2009 and September 2015.
When compared to other nontraditional students—including those who are married, have children, are employed, or are several years beyond high school—student veterans are “much more likely to succeed, to earn an academically rigorous degree, and to graduate,” said Barrett Bogue, vice president of communications for SVA and one of NVEST’s coauthors. “If we could emphasize one thing as a result of NVEST, it’s that the results show that student veterans are talent hiding in plain sight and that they are on your campus today.”
Bogue emphasized that institutions can support the continued success of veteran students by providing the same support structures they offer other nontraditional students. Whether it’s “the student who’s married, the student who has children or a part-time or full-time job, the paradigm around supporting nontraditional students is actually the same paradigm around supporting student veterans.”
Hundreds of Thousands Get Degrees Using Post-9/11 GI Bill
As of September 2015, 72 percent of the veterans who used the bill either earned a degree/certificate or were still enrolled.
Success, Persistence, and Attrition Rates for Veteran Students Using Post-9/11 GI Bill
The bill helped 347,564 veterans earn a higher education certificate or degree. Of these students, 87,018 (25 percent) earned more than one certificate or degree, for a “grand a total of 453,508 post-secondary certificates or degrees that the Post-9/11 GI Bill at least in-part helped to fund.” Within ten years, the authors expect the total number of degrees awarded to reach 1.4 million.
More than 63 percent of the degrees were at or above the bachelor’s level. These included 162,567 bachelor’s degrees; 67,928 master’s degrees; 10,369 doctorate or postdoctorate degrees; and 786 certificates, including teacher or counselor certifications.
Veterans also earned approximately 101,000 associate’s degrees and 39,000 vocational certificates.
Twenty percent of veterans who used the Post-9/11 GI Bill and 23 percent who completed a degree using the bill were female. According to Military One Source, as of 2014, 16.5 percent of the military overall was female.
Veteran Students Tend to be Older
Just 32 percent of student veterans entered college for the first time before the age of nineteen, while approximately 58 percent were twenty-two or older.
In public two-year institutions, student veterans tended to be older than the general population of students (as recently reported by the US Department of Education). Thirty-three percent of veteran students were twenty-five or older, while 27 percent of students in the general population were twenty-five or older. However, the opposite was true in private two-year institutions—just 22 percent of student veterans were twenty-five or older, compared to 39 percent of students in the general population.
Student veterans tended to be older than the general population in both private and public four-year institutions. In private institutions, 52 percent of veteran students were twenty-five or older, compared to 13 percent of the general population. In public four-year institutions, 30 percent of students were twenty-five or older, compared to 12 percent of the general population.
Age Comparison for Student Veterans (NVEST) and the General Population of Students (Dept. of Ed)
Veteran Students Take Slightly Longer than Expected to Complete Degrees
As seen in the figure below, the number of veteran students finishing associate’s degrees peaks at six terms, while bachelor’s degree completion peaks at nine to eleven terms. The expected number of terms to completion for these degrees are four and eight, respectively.
However, the report notes that it is common for veterans and nonveterans alike to complete associate’s degrees in three years and bachelor’s degrees in five or six years, and it also states that less-than-full-time course loads and noncredit remedial courses may be partial explanations.
More than half (54 percent) of student veterans withdrew from at least one course during a term. According to NVEST, “These interruptions or breaks may lead to student veterans needing to enroll in more terms to complete their certificates or degrees, but a majority [52 percent] of student veterans will return and complete their degrees.”
Term-to-Completion Rates for Bachelor’s Degrees, Associate’s Degrees, and Certificates
Did You Know?
Student veterans heavily favor “Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services majors,” with 27 percent of student veterans earning 96,270 degrees in these fields. According to the report, “It takes the next three [categories of] majors to equal the number of degrees in Business,” including “Health Professions (37,138), Liberal Arts and Sciences (34,812), and Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, Firefighting and Related Protective Services (34,199).”
Unless otherwise cited, all data and graphics are included with permission of the Student Veterans of America from their National Veteran Education Success Tracker fact sheet and Report on the Academic Success of Student Veterans Using the Post-9/11 GI Bill, both published in 2017. For the purposes of this article, some percentages from the original report have been rounded.