Veterans Struggle with Transition from Combat to College Report Shows

An increasing number of veterans are heading back to school thanks to the Post-9/11 GI Bill that offers more generous benefits. Reports show that in just three years since the bill went into effect, 860,000 veterans have enrolled in college.

But despite the fact that higher learning institutions are seeing a surge in veteran enrollments, a recent report by the University of Colorado, Denver showed that an estimated 88% of veterans drop out of school before the end of their first year, and what’s more, only about 3% ever graduate.

While the exact reasons for these high dropout rates are not known, a study of veterans in college found that one-third had experienced severe anxiety, one-fourth suffered from severe depression, and 45% experienced significant symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The study, carried out by the National Center for Veterans Studies, also found that 46% of veterans in college had considered suicide, compared to only 6% of civilian students.

Many veterans comment that they find it difficult to make the abrupt transition from a strict military environment to a more laid back college culture, and they often feel isolated and lonely during their college years.

Because of the unique challenges that veterans face upon returning to school, Military Advanced Education issues a list of America’s Top Military-Friendly Colleges and Universities each year in order to help veterans choose a learning institution that will fit their needs.

Park University has featured on the list for five years in a row, and is recognized as one of the largest providers of online undergraduate education to the armed forces. In fact, each year over half of Park’s students are current military, veterans or family members.

Steven Terry, Director of Military and Veteran Student Services at Park University, believes that one of the biggest challenges that veterans face when returning to school is that they are often ill-informed of what educational benefits they have available to them.

“Of course they all know that they can go to school, but many do not understand that their GI Bill can go a long way, if used correctly,” says Terry.

“When I meet with service members and veterans one of the first things that we do is go over the different benefits they have available to them.

Another problem he often sees is that many service members and veterans go through financial difficulties when returning to school.

“When the student comes from the service where they had a regular paycheck and become full-time college students, they certainly can’t have the same spending habits,” he says. “Sitting down with service members and veterans and engaging them in good financial planning can pay dividends later.”

So what is Park University doing differently to accommodate the needs of service members and veterans?

Terry explains that Park University has a number of personalized partnerships to provide veterans with access to quality future-focused programs that are globally relevant. It also provides a student veteran recruitment orientation program, face-to-face transition assistance and online access to academic advising and student support services.

As to the question of what colleges can and should be doing to support veterans who are looking to return to school, Terry believes that caring about people is the real key to success.

“When college and university administrators, faculty, and staff are able to show how compassionate they are about ensuring student success, students will witness that commitment and will be more likely to stay,” he says.

“At Park University, quality education is job one and it is our core commitment that we, as an institution, will do all that we can to ensure that students succeed while they are at Park and afterward, in their careers, in their communities and throughout their lives as citizens of the world.

This is our most fundamental commitment as a university. It’s what gives meaning and purpose to all that we do; to our mission, our vision, our core functions and special initiatives.”


Marianne Stenger is a freelance journalist with over four years of experience in writing for publications, online resources and blogs in the education industry. She believes that online education is the way of the future and is passionate about promoting online learning tools and the use of new technologies in the classroom.

You can find her on Google+ , twitter and by email at marianne.stenger @

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