Just over half of veterans who sought a higher education from 2002 through 2013 under the GI Bill completed schooling ranging from vocational training to post-graduate, according to an unprecedented review of nearly 800,000 college records to be released on Monday (Tuesday in Manila).
The research released by the Student Veterans of America service organization is the first in-depth look at how those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan are performing in college. While analysts say results could be better, the numbers appear to refute reports — some in the media, some anecdotal — that most of these veterans are dropping out or failing in college.
About one in three of the veterans earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.
“I’ve heard it over the last few years about the disaster of these students. That it’s terrible, [that]they’re just flunking at huge rates,” said Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, a Purdue University professor and director of the Military Family Research Institute, who studied the report.
“That’s not right,” he added.
The completion rate for these veterans of 51.7 percent is lower than the four-year graduation rate for younger, non-veteran peers, which was 59 percent in 2011, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
“Looking at the obstacles and the issues that student vets have to deal with. . . I think we’re doing quite well,” said Wayne Patterson, a former Army command sergeant major and now president and chief executive officer of Student Veterans of America.
The most sought-after undergraduate degrees by veterans were in business, social sciences, homeland security, law enforcement and firefighting, and computer and information services.
Researchers said veterans appear to be doing better than other so-called non-traditional students — those who delay attending college, enroll part-time or have children, factors common with many current veterans.
Curtis Coy, who oversees GI benefits as deputy undersecretary for economic opportunity for the Department of Veterans Affairs, said the results “clearly show that the investment the American taxpayer has made in [veterans’] education is well worth it.”
The study was a collaboration of Student Veterans of America , the VA and the National Student Clearinghouse, which compiles enrollment and graduation data.
Completion rates varied for veterans depending upon branch of service, and Patterson said this could be proof of the strain of war. The largely ground combat duty of Iraq and Afghanistan fell disproportionately on Army soldiers and Marines.
MCT Information Services