Academic Exchange Quarterly     ISSN 1096-1453    Volume 23, Issue 2    Summer 2019

Welcome to the Summer 2019 edition of Academic Exchange Quarterly
Article, Veteran and Military Student Challenges (Winter 2018 issue) detailed the experiences of this
unique population as they returned to higher education in search of a degree. The latest information details
the number of veteran and military members who are using educational benefits. For FY 2016, there were
903,327 VA Education Program Beneficiaries (National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, 2017,
p. 1). The number of those using the education program benefits is down from a high of 1,001,884 in FY2013.

Veteran and military students have been attending higher education institutions using their GI Bill benefits since
WWII. The versions have evolved and benefit levels have adjusted to meet the available funding limits. Since the
Post-9/11 GI Bill has been in force, institutions have seen a tremendous increase in the numbers of veteran and
military students that have enrolled. This increase has made it essential for the institutions to develop programs
and policies to accommodate the needs of this population of learners.

Institutions who wish to serve this population must meet governmental criteria and standards to be “Military Friendly”
or “Veteran Friendly.” When the standards are met and the designation is provided, one knows that the institution is
committed to being service-oriented toward this population. Through this commitment, there are specific guidelines
that cater to the veteran and military student such as priority registration, academic and counseling services targeted
to the veteran and military population, support groups, and limited academic residency requirements to name a few
Institutions have different processes to address these areas.

Not all institutions award previous credit in the same way. The most common is the use of the American Council on
Education (ACE) evaluations, to determine what courses match those from the members Joint Service Transcript (JST),
and would count for credit towards their degree. Although ACE reviews the content, scope and rigor of the course or
occupation, it is at the discretion of the institution to award credit (American Council on Education [ACE], 2018). From
the student’spoint of view, enrolling as a student, receiving credits for their military training and experience, and
navigating the bureaucracy of the GI Bill are all red tape that is difficult to navigate.

One of the most important aspects for any institution is the relationship with the student. The transition period from
active duty to student can be challenging and difficult for many. As was shared in the article, “Successful Military
Friendly schools build relationships with prospective military students ‘right from the beginning’” (Stewart, 2016, p. 17).
The veteran and military student has experiences that not everyone can understand or relate to. It is essential to form
a relationship with those who understand and have similar experiences.

As the veteran and military student transitions from military to civilian life, they often require support. When the
institution works towards building that relationship, the support can come from students, faculty, or staff at the institution.
The level of support and interaction with peers in the classroom and on campus will impact their experience. In order
to support this population of learners, it is imperative for the institution to provide veteran and military specific programs.
That support often comes from a central office specifically charged with the veteran and military students. The office
generally provides guidance and coordinates the supports available on or off campus, such as academic/tutoring,
academic advising, financial aid and mental health counseling. Support is key for the students to continue their
education and successfully matriculate.

Higher education institutions have not seen the last of the veterans or military students. As the United States continues
to have a military and provides educational support for those members, the desire for this population to continue their
education post-military service will remain. It behooves the institutions that have not put in place a successful military
student program to seek to learn how best to support this population. For those that have developed a program of
support, seek input from the students of what is working and what is not – they are the experts.

American Council on Education. (2018).
      Transfer guide: Understanding your military transcript and ACE recommendation
National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics. (2017).
      Department of veterans affairs education program beneficiaries: FY2000 to FY2016.
Stewart, P. (2016). Making Rank. Diverse Issues in Higher Education, 33(19), 16-17.

Gail Y. Rouscher, Ph.D., A&P Assistant Professor, College of Aviation Western Michigan University

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