NEWS & ANALYSIS
Report: Post-9/11 GI Bill Helps,
But Student Soldiers Need More
BY TABITHA WHISSEMORE
new report on the Post-9/11 GI Bill recommends postsecondary institutions devote more time and money to
the needs of student veterans and particularly to training staff with special knowledge about the challenges
these students face.
More than 300,000 veterans have enrolled in college since the Post-9/11 GI Bill
went into effect one year ago. Though its benefits are strong, veterans continue to
have problems transitioning to postsecondary programs, according to the
American Council on Education’s Service Members in School: Military Veterans’ Experiences
Using the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Pursuing Postsecondary Education report.
Overall, veterans say they are happy with the expanded benefits in the bill, especially the living allowance, the book stipend, and the opportunity to attend private
“That set the good part of the story,” said Jennifer Steele of RAND Corporation,
the nonprofit policy think tank that prepared the report. “But there are challenges.”
Veterans and college administrators said more training is needed to help staff
understand the complexities and protocols of this latest incarnation of the GI Bill.
They added that disability staff should get more instruction on how to handle
service-related injuries, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Transitioning to academic life is often difficult for veterans. Most are older than
traditional students and forced to juggle the responsibilities of school, work, and
family. Though many excel in the classroom because of their focus and maturity,
they don’t always relate well with their classmates. That makes program administrators a “key source of support for the students,” Steele said.
Veterans surveyed also were dissatisfied with the process of transferring military credits to academic credits. Some veterans reported taking years of defense
language training in the military only to receive no recognition for it when
enrolling in college; others entering similar programs at other colleges did receive credit.
“Institutions can think about ways to make their expectations more consistent
and transparent,” Steele said.
Veterans also recommended that colleges include veterans’ programs in their
campus orientation sessions, and that veterans’ information sessions be held during the year.
“Such simple gestures may help foster a climate of inclusion,” the report
JAE SHIM/ IMAGES.COM
Its authors acknowledge that devoting more resources to the cause is difficult,
especially in light of recent budget constraints, but contend the federally funded
tuition subsidies that accompany veterans on campus help offset the costs.
More than that, they say, helping veterans is a way for communities to voice
appreciation for their service. The report deems this a time of “historical opportunity” for institutions to help “returning warriors” transition to civilian life and to
integrate into the workforce.
Community College Baccalaureate Association
Meeting the Challenge! 15 million new degrees by 2025!
February 25 – 27th, 2011
Hilton San Diego Bayfront
Register at accbd.org
Dr. Beth Hagan
11 December 2010/January 2011 COMMUNITY COLLEGE JOURNAL