Colleges Strive to Produce More Veteran Graduates

By Catherine Groux
Posted November 08, 2012 05:00 PM

Some colleges are working to ensure veterans earn college degrees.
Some colleges are working to ensure veterans earn college degrees.
As countless military members return home from Iraq and Afghanistan, many are opting to go to college and earn an associate's or bachelor's degree. While a college degree can come with many benefits, a majority of veterans who set out to earn these credentials fail to do so.

Many Veterans Struggle When Transitioning to Higher Education

Unfortunately, when many veterans move from the military to the classroom, they often struggle with the transition. Citing a report by the University of Colorado Denver, MSNBC recently reported that of the 800,000 veterans currently enrolled at U.S. colleges, an estimated 88% will drop out in their freshman year, while only about 3% will graduate and earn a degree.

One veteran who knows the struggle of going back to school is Navy corpsman Lucas Velasquez. After retiring from the Navy in 2007, the then 23-year-old enrolled at Columbus State University in Georgia. Although he was known for being intelligent and cautious while in the military, he failed four of his first six classes at Columbus State, MSNBC reports.

After spending years in the military, Valasquez had trouble relating to his civilian classmates. However, one of his biggest challenges in college was learning how to study properly. Initially, Valasquez found himself eagerly writing down every word his professors said, rather than taking brief notes on lectures.

"I didn’t know how to study," he told MSNBC. "In the military classes [we had taken], they spoon fed you everything because they didn’t want you to fail. It was a struggle going from a structured lifestyle to one where everything is on you."

Some Colleges Strive to Help Veterans Succeed

While veterans face their fair share of challenges in pursuing an associate's or bachelor's degree, some colleges are finding ways to help them succeed. For example, at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, about 77% of students graduate, including many veterans, Military Times Edge reports. At this institution, veterans are provided with a wide range of support services, including on-campus mentors who have experience in the military. Rutgers also holds orientation events, in which new veterans can meet other military members who attend the school and realize they are part of a larger community, the school's website states.

Military Times Edge also named Eastern Kentucky University a military-friendly school. According to this institution's website, it does not make undergraduate veterans pay an admission fee, and it allows all veterans to pay in-state tuition, regardless of where they are from. Additionally, at Eastern Kentucky, veterans can participate in one of two veterans orientation courses, which are designed to ease their transition to higher education. 

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