4 Facts About Student Veterans That Might Surprise You (But Shouldn’t)

Education
Students from the Student Veterans of America attended the group's Leadership Summit in San Diego in August 2016.
Photo by Student Veterans of America, via Facebook.

We took Fallujah. We know more than a decade of war. Why then do so many articles bemoan the challenges veterans face attending college? Veterans are completing tougher degrees with higher grades at better colleges than many might guess.


Sure, we have all heard stories where veterans were victimized by their school or were misled, but a handful of stories does not a narrative make. It merely perpetuates misconceptions about student veterans in higher education.

Those of us who served after September 11, 2001, and used the GI Bill to attend a postsecondary institution know the importance of data, and we have seen firsthand the successes of our fellow student veterans. We are the best cohort of current and future achievers in higher education despite any challenge placed before us.

1. We're more likely to graduate than our peers.

You read that right. We're much more likely to persist through higher education and earn a degree compared to our peers — who aren't 18- to 22-year-old recent high school graduates, by the way. We and our peers are non-traditional students. We have children, some of us work part-time, and we have more obligations than the typical college freshmen. The national success rate for non-traditional students is 50%, while for student veterans using the GI Bill it's 72%. In fact, we've earned more than 450,000 degrees and certificates since 2009 using the Post-9/11 GI Bill and we're projected to earn 100,000 more each year for the foreseeable future.

2. We have a higher GPA than the national average.

What's the most common way colleges measure your academic success as a student? It's probably the grade point average. Postsecondary students earn a respectable 3.11 GPA nationally. Student veterans maintain an average GPA of 3.35. That's some major cramming before finals. It also dispels the misconception you may have heard that we don't perform well academically in college. We do.   

3. We pursue academically rigorous degrees.

If you had to guess the most popular major we pursue what would it be? Criminal justice? Psychology? Those are popular majors for the general population but not us. The most popular degrees we pursue are in business, management, and marketing. We have a high propensity to pursue academically-rigorous degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math — what's usually called STEM. Since 2009, we've earned more than 51,000 STEM degrees using the Post-9/11 GI Bill. We're seeking ways to continue serving our country as the future business leaders, IT engineers, research scientists, and doctors of America.

4. We love to attend nonprofit and public schools.

This one is important because the loudest voices in my area of policy for student veterans tend to focus on the for-profit industry. Yes, for-profit schools must improve their recruiting practices and treatment of student veterans, but they only enroll one-quarter of student veterans.

Public schools like Arizona State University and not-for-profit private schools like George Washington University enroll 73% of student veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill. So while it's important to have a conversation around how for-profit schools treat veterans, it's critical to consider how public and nonprofit schools can improve outcomes (i.e., paid internships, career opportunities, etc.) for the vast majority who attend their institutions.

Related: 5 Ways To Boost Veteran Enrollment At Top Colleges »

If what I listed above sounds too good to be true, then I encourage you to review the research we conduct at Student Veterans of America about today's student veteran. No organization is better placed to affect change in higher education on their behalf than SVA.

If you remember one thing let it be this: we are the rightful heirs to the millions of veterans who used the GI Bill after World War II and created a vibrant economy for America. We maintain a high GPA, pursue academically-rigorous degrees, prefer public and private schools to for-profit schools, and are more likely to graduate than our peers. We are today's scholars and tomorrow's leaders.

A UH-60 Black Hawk departs from The Rock while conducting Medevac 101 training with members of the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group, Feb. 16, 2019. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys)

A Minnesota Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with three Guardsmen aboard crashed south of St. Cloud on Thursday, said National Guard spokeswoman Army Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens.

At this time, the National Guard is not releasing any information about the status of the three people aboard the helicopter, Heusdens told Task & Purpose on Thursday.

Read More Show Less

The Pentagon's latest attempt to twist itself in knots to deny that it is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East has a big caveat.

Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said there are no plans to send that many troops to the region "at this time."

Farah's statement does not rule out the possibility that the Defense Department could initially announce a smaller deployment to the region and subsequently announce that more troops are headed downrange.

Read More Show Less

The Navy could send a second aircraft carrier to the Middle East if President Donald Trump orders a surge of forces to the region, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Thursday.

Gordon Lubold and Nancy Youssef of the Wall Street Journal first reported the United States is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to deter Iran from attacking U.S. forces and regional allies. The surge forces could include several ships.

Read More Show Less

I didn't think a movie about World War I would, or even could, remind me of Afghanistan.

Somehow 1917 did, and that's probably the highest praise I can give Sam Mendes' newest war drama: It took a century-old conflict and made it relatable.

Read More Show Less

An internal investigation spurred by a nude photo scandal shows just how deep sexism runs in the Marine Corps

"I will still have to work harder to get the perception away from peers and seniors that women can't do the job."

news
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Some years ago, a 20-year-old female Marine, a military police officer, was working at a guard shack screening service members and civilians before they entered the base. As a lance corporal, she was new to the job and the duty station, her first in the Marine Corps.

At some point during her shift, a male sergeant on duty drove up. Get in the car, he said, the platoon sergeant needs to see you. She opened the door and got in, believing she was headed to see the enlisted supervisor of her platoon.

Instead, the sergeant drove her to a dark, wooded area on base. It was deserted, no other Marines were around. "Hey, I want a blowjob," the sergeant told her.

"What am I supposed, what do you do as a lance corporal?" she would later recall. "I'm 20 years old ... I'm new at this. You're the only leadership I've ever known, and this is what happens."

She looked at him, then got out of the car and walked away. The sergeant drove up next to her and tried to play it off as a prank. "I'm just fucking with you," he said. "It's not a big deal."

It was one story among hundreds of others shared by Marines for a study initiated in July 2017 by the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL). Finalized in March 2018, the center's report was quietly published to its website in September 2019 with little fanfare.

The culture of the Marine Corps is ripe for analysis. A 2015 Rand Corporation study found that women felt far more isolated among men in the Corps, while the Pentagon's Office of People Analytics noted in 2018 that female Marines rated hostility toward them as "significantly higher" than their male counterparts.

But the center's report, Marines' Perspectives on Various Aspects of Marine Corps Organizational Culture, offers a proverbial wakeup call to leaders, particularly when paired alongside previous studies, since it was commissioned by the Marine Corps itself in the wake of a nude photo sharing scandal that rocked the service in 2017.

The scandal, researchers found, was merely a symptom of a much larger problem.

Read More Show Less