Influx of Student Veterans Highlights Their Academic Struggles

By Chris Hassan
Posted October 29, 2013 10:00 AM

Academic troubles vary among student veterans.
Academic troubles vary among student veterans.

It's no secret that the transition from the military to academia is difficult for many veterans. While colleges and universities can provide services to members of this particular student population, different veterans will face their own unique challenges.

With so many service members coming from the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, and taking a seat in college classrooms, school officials are becoming more aware of the types of struggles veterans go through when trying to earn a bachelor's degree or similar credential.

A Different Mindset

For some veterans, it can be hard to learn alongside classmates who don't fully understand what they went through in a war zone. Mike Grantham, a 43-year-old veteran of the war in Afghanistan, is among those who have very different views from some of their fellow students, The Associated Press reports. Grantham, who had to leave the Army due to back and neck problems, is currently enrolled at the University of Toledo.

The former service member believes in the work he and his fellow soldiers did in Afghanistan, and he doesn't appreciate how some of the students in his government studies class criticize the conflict.

"I told them, 'You know, I lost nine friends,'" Grantham told the AP. "'I've lost two since I've been home. Those guys didn't complain. We did our job. You can't tell me there's no reason for us to be there.'"

The Pressures of War

Like so many veterans, Adam Fisher, who attends the University of Toledo, has post-traumatic stress disorder, the AP reports. Although the freshman participates in group therapy sessions, he still struggles with being around so many people.

A total of 476,515 veterans with either a primary or secondary diagnosis of PTSD underwent treatment for their condition in the Fiscal Year 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. As some time has passed since this data was collected, it's likely Fisher is not the only veteran dealing with PTSD.

Special Learning Options

While the transition to civilian life is never easy, the challenges Grantham and Fisher face highlight how difficult it can be for veterans to adapt to their academic surroundings. In some cases, former service members may feel more comfortable taking courses alongside their fellow veterans.

Schools are unlikely to rearrange their class rosters just so veterans can learn together, but several institutions do provide special opportunities for them. The George Washington University, for example, will provide veterans, along with active military personnel, with therapeutic and creative relief through its Veterans Writing and Filmmaking Summer Seminar. According to the university's website, this opportunity will take place in June and allow participants to channel and share their unique experiences through art.

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