WHO ARE TODAY’S Veteran STUDENTS?
A Population Overview:Demographics:
• Colleges across America today are seeing a massive influx of returning veterans pursuing higher education, many of whom are entering the college classroom for the first time.
• Last year alone over 1 million veterans took advantage of the Montgomery G.I. Bill, the majority of them enrolling in public institutions.
• The majority of student veterans are male but 25% of student veterans are female.
• Certain states in particular, such as California and Texas, are seeing more veterans on campus than anywhere else in the nation, with California alone supporting over 9 million of these students.
• Veterans differ in many ways from the average college student, and bring a multitude of different experiences and attitudes to classroom. While the average traditional college student ranges in age from 18-22, the matriculating student veteran ranges in ages from 22-42 with an average age of 23 to 27.
• Many veterans enter colleges and universities with some course credit, acquired either online or as part of education and training during military service. Some skip forward to their sophomore or junior year and miss the class-bonding period of a freshman year. As a result, many find it difficult to fit in with their peers, though they seek a similar sense of camaraderie that they had previously been accustomed to in the service.
• Just under half of student veterans are married and a majority have children.
• Student veterans are accustomed to a former lifestyle of intense pressure, regimented routine, goal orientation and a disciplined combat mindset. Attending class with younger and less-disciplined students, is not appealing to these former warriors. In some cases this mix can be a trigger. This cultural disconnect can keep student veterans from getting involved with their peers and taking full advantage of all that the collegiate experience has to offer.
Population Specific Challenges:
• Success can be more elusive for some veterans: estimates suggest that only half of these students are graduating as quickly as their non-veteran peers.
• Some veterans are returning home with physical and mental health issues. According to VA statistics, over 386,000 men and women who served in the military are compensated through federal disability for service-related anxiety disorders (Veterans Administration, 2010). Approximately 30% of returning veterans are categorized with some form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and 19% with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
• Service-connected issues and mental trauma among veterans can manifest in a number of ways, including depression, anxiety, isolation, or acting out. Half of all who have been diagnosed with either PTSD or TBI fail or outright refuse to seek treatment, and many others receive inadequate treatment.
• Suicide is a real threat to veteran students. The rate of suicide for Veterans is over 20%.
• Many veterans have turned to substance abuse to help cope with a variety of mental health issues. 40% suffer from drug and/or alcohol abuse, to an extent which interferes with performance in school or at work.
• Many Veterans become homeless as a result of their untreated mental health issues.
• Some veterans may be victims of sexual abuse or military sexual trauma (MST), a phenomenon which has been widely underreported. Victims include both male and female veterans.