Scrambling To Understand Veterans

Most colleges are failing to track the performance of their students who are veterans or active-duty members of the military, according to the results of a new survey, and most do not understand what can trip them up on the way to graduation.

About 68 percent of institutions said they do not separately collect retention and completion rates for undergraduate veterans, according to findings from the survey, which was conducted by NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and InsideTrack, a company that works with colleges on student coaching services. Only 10 percent of respondents said they know the first-year retention rates of student veterans.

However, the survey found that most colleges have in place specialized student services for veterans, and are generally aware of the need for more information about how the population is faring. (See graphic at the bottom of the article.)

The study is timely, given the large numbers of veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan and are enrolling on campuses or online after returning to a down economy. Nearly 2 million veterans are eligible for federal aid aimed at them or their family members.

Many veterans face extra challenges after enrolling, such as adjusting to a less structured environment or mental and physical health issues. Yet only one in four colleges reported having a detailed understanding of why veteran and military students drop out, according to the survey.

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INSIDE HIGHER EDUCATION

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