The expansions of benefits for active duty and military veterans to gain access to higher education opened the door for hundreds of thousands of students to enroll in college over the last several years, but many colleges and universities could make changes to better serve the needs of military students, according to a new poll from Gallup.
After the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) expanded the GI Bill in 2008 (now referred to as the Post-9/11 GI Bill), the number of military students using the education benefits increased from approximately 500,000 in 2009 to more than 1 million in 2013, according to the VA. Still, fewer than one-third (30 percent) of the more than 3,700 service members and veterans with an undergraduate degree or higher that Gallup surveyed said they strongly agreed that their university “understood the unique needs of the military service member and veteran student population,” according to the survey.
That percentage differed slightly depending on the time during which the graduates served, though. Service members who took advantage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits were more likely than military graduates who used other types of benefits to strongly agree with that statement (50 percent compared with 34 percent). Service members who were enrolled in college while serving in the military were also more likely to strongly agree with that statement than those who served in the military before enrolling in college (40 percent compared with 25 percent).
“These data suggest colleges and universities have more difficulty demonstrating a strong grasp of the issues that returning veterans face upon enrollment in postsecondary institutions,” the survey said.
But there were bright spots in the survey data, too.
Gallup found that military service members and veterans were more likely than other college graduates to be thriving in three of five areas of well-being: purpose, social, and financial well-being.
The largest difference between college graduates who served in the military and others was in financial well-being: 54 percent of service member and veteran graduates were thriving financially, compared with 43 percent of non-veteran graduates. That difference could partly be explained by the fact that service members and veterans have a lower average level of student loan debt than others, with 65 percent borrowing no money to finance their undergraduate degrees, compared with 52 percent of non-veteran graduates, the survey said.
Still, many of those surveyed felt both colleges and universities and the government could do more to support service members and veterans in school. Just 28 percent of those surveyed said they strongly agreed the financial benefits available are sufficient to obtain “a good degree,” the survey said. However, more than half (55 percent) of those who used Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits strongly agreed with that statement.
“Although colleges and universities receive higher marks from military service member and veteran graduates who used Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, these data suggest there is room for improvement in the area of understanding the unique needs of military service members and veterans,” the survey said. “There is tremendous diversity within the military service member and veteran population, and while both active military service members and veterans share some needs, they differ tremendously in others.”
Publication Date: 11/12/2015