Correction: A previous version of this brief incorrectly suggested that higher ed institutions at large had low student veteran graduation rates, as opposed to community colleges specifically.

Dive Brief:

  • Community colleges often benefit from GI Bill funding that supports the enrollment of military veterans, but many of those veterans do not graduate from these educational institutions with degrees, according to The Hechinger Report.
  • An average of only 15% of full-time student veterans receiving benefits from GI Bill funding graduated from community colleges with a two-year degree in 2014, and part-time graduation was at 7%

    — though both were below the national average for non-veterans.

  • Information on how student veterans fare in attaining a degree is difficult to know, as four-year universities have stymied attempts from Congress that would force them to reveal how many student veterans enrolling at those universities actually graduated.

Dive Insight:

Overall, veterans tend to graduate at higher rates than other students. One factor that must be taken into account is that, when a student begins at one school but transfers and completes their degree at another, traditional metrics do not count that degree completion for the initial school.

Student veterans face unique challenges in contrast to their peers at college, from the prospect of being deployed during their educational career to the fact that they are typically outside the traditional age range for an incoming freshman. Also, there can be difficulty in adjusting to the self-determination of campus life after the regimented way of life in the armed services. The responses universities offer must fit students’ needs. For example, a dozen campuses throughout the nation participate each year in the Warrior-Scholar program, which uses military learning models to help teach student veterans about the college process and campus life.

It is uncertain if the new presidential administration will bring a renewed focus to accountability for educational institutions. President Trump has said there will be more focus on veterans in his administration, but these remarks have mostly been made within the context of criticizing the Veterans’ Administration on health care. Trump’s proposed budget could impact higher education institutions, and it remains to be seen how the challenge of veteran education will be handled.

Nonetheless, federal legislators could put more pressure on educational institutions to be forthcoming about the rates of student veterans graduating. Not only is it important to verify and ensure veterans are receiving a beneficial education, but their education is taxpayer-subsidized, offering the U.S. Congress a stronger argument for their role in delivering tougher oversight.