To kick off 2018, thousands of student Veterans and their supporters convened in San Antonio, Texas, for the annual Student Veterans of America (SVA) conference. The conference lasted two and half days, providing breakout sessions and
Jared Lyon with NatCon attendee
keynotes to help inspire student Veterans to continue their success in higher education and to nurture their Veteran groups on campus. Today, Jan. 11, SVA celebrates its 10th anniversary. Both occasions highlight how important it is that we support Veterans in higher education, and how richer campuses and communities are because of these student Veterans.
Student Veterans now make up 1500 student Veteran chapters across the nation, plus four countries overseas: Japan, Germany, Italy and France. Many SVA chapters are often comprised of prior-military, reservists, National Guard and dependents. Veterans attend universities from coast to coast, in every conference, in major cities, in rural areas and everywhere in between.
Our nation has invested more than 80 billion dollars into the GI Bill since 2008. Student Veterans of America examined information from VA and National Student Clearinghouse to learn what our nation was getting out of that investment. The National Veteran Education Success Tracker (NVEST)
project is the first comprehensive, in-depth study of the academic success of the contemporary student Veteran using the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Here are some key points showing how Veterans are rising to the occasion with their higher education:
- Veterans graduate at a rate of 72 percent compared to 66 percent of their peers.
- Veterans with a bachelor’s degree earns an average of $17,000 more per year than those that have not served in the military. Veterans with advanced degrees see nearly $30,000 more in their annual salary.
- Since 2009, Veterans have earned 453,000 degrees. In 10 years, it is expected that student Veterans will have earned 1.4 million degrees.
- 25 percent of Veterans earn more than one degree or certificate.
Veterans are pursuing degrees across all programs and platforms. Business programs are most popular, followed by liberal arts and sciences, health related fields and homeland security.
During my time at the conference, I sat down with several of the Student Veteran of the Year finalists. Most of them had founded the SVA chapter at their school. Some of them were credited with the creation of a Veteran Center or study area on campus. Each finalist was nominated by a colleague or community member that recognized the value that Veteran brought to their campus, and were as humble as they were exceptional. You can hear from these Veterans in episodes 73 through 78 of Borne the Battle.
The experience of being a student Veteran is a unique one. Most student Veterans attend their first college class having multiple years of “real world” and international experience. They bring a perspective that is valuable in many ways. “I think people are waking up to it. I think at first there was an assumption that was aligned with societies’ views of Veterans that we may be damaged or broken and require extra help,” said Jared Lyon, SVA President. “Universities are really waking up to the enrichment that is found with the Veterans that enroll into their institutions of higher learning. Veterans culturally are bringing a diversity of thought but we’re also bringing a diversity of lived experience to the classroom.”
Carbon copy of The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act
Our opportunity as a nation to deliver our promise to Veterans is made possible by the always-improving education benefits provided to Veterans, starting with The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, which was signed in 1944, and led to the Montgomery GI Bill, the Post 9/11 GI Bill and 2017’s Forever GI Bill. We can go even farther and trace our efforts to serve student Veterans to two moments in history, brought to us by our 16th president.
In 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed the Land-Grant College Act to provide land for states to build universities. Many top universities today sit on those original land grant locations including Syracuse, Ohio State University, Washington State University, and Cornell. Lincoln, along with Congress, knew the importance higher education would have in developing a nation.
In 1865, President Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address, where he calls for us as a nation to care for those who have “borne the battle.” That line has become VA’s motto, and sits on a placard outside of our main office. Lincoln knew the importance of caring for those who sacrificed for our country.
More than 150 years later, we combine these two moments, and get our nation’s opportunity to invest in student Veterans, while they continue to serve us on campus and in our community.