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Ask A REL Response

September 2019


What research has been conducted on how higher education institutions support U.S. veterans entering and attending post-secondary institutions?


Following an established REL Southeast research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles on how higher education institutions support U.S. veterans entering and attending post-secondary institutions. We focused on identifying resources that specifically addressed how higher education institutions support U.S. veterans entering and attending post-secondary institutions. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, and general Internet search engines (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. These references are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. Also, we searched the references in the response from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist."

Research References

  1. Dillard, R. J., & Yu, H. H. (2018). Best practices in student veteran education: Faculty professional development and student veteran success. Journal of Continuing Higher Education, 66(2), 122-128.
    From the abstract: "Since 2002, nearly one million veterans have pursued higher education upon completion of their military service; however, the military-to-academic transition has been fraught with challenges. Despite concrete efforts by an increasing number of colleges and universities to help veterans make the transition, one recurring theme persists--many veterans feel isolated due to the lack of military cultural competency among faculty and staff. In this article, the authors explore the Green Zone Program, which has the underlying goal of fostering a campus climate that is positive for student veterans and conducive to their success, and assess its impact on faculty professional development. In addition, recommendations and lessons learned are discussed to improve the program. While there is much literature on the benefits of professional development, what sets this study apart is the presence of a new rising student demographic in higher education--veterans."
  2. DiRamio, D., & Jarvis, K. (2011). Special issue: Veterans in higher education--When Johnny and Jane come marching to campus. ASHE Higher Education Report, 37(3), 1-144.
    From the abstract: "This volume is intended to provide useful information about students with military experience who are attending college by blending the theoretical, practical, and empirical. The chapters contain theories, frameworks, facts, and ideas for consideration when approaching the subject of the newest generation of college students who have experienced military service. This information should be particularly useful for those whose task is to provide support and services for student veterans, including campus administrators and policymakers. The chapter, "Home Alone? Applying Theories of Transition to Support Student Veterans' Success," uses the lens of the transition process as a basis for contemplating the experience of student veterans. Nancy Schlossberg provides a thoughtful commentary, giving her insights about transition for these students. In "What Matters to Veterans? Peer Influences and the Campus Environment," Alexander Astin's I-E-O model provides a framework for characterizing the importance of veterans' connecting with other veterans, which the research indicates may be vital for initial success and persistence when starting college. Alexander Astin shares his thoughts in a brief commentary on the topic. "Transition 2.0: Using Tinto's Model to Understand Student Veterans' Persistence" looks further into the collegiate journey of veterans, later into the matriculation process, and beyond initial peer connections to consider the interactions these students will have with the broader campus community, including faculty members and nonmilitary students. John Braxton, renowned professor and higher education researcher, shares his thinking on the topics of persistence and departure related to student veterans. "Crisis of Identity? Veteran, Civilian, Student" reviews some of the key literature on college student development. This chapter provides a novel approach for considering where a student veteran is in terms of development and offers ideas about how to proceed toward a fulfilled civilian identity. Linda Reisser, coauthor with Arthur Chickering of "Education and Identity," provides her ideas about student veterans. "Women Warriors: Supporting Female Student Veterans" shows the reader a new wrinkle in the story of student veterans: females with military experience, including those who have experienced combat and other traumas. This chapter introduces a distinctive subpopulation of women on campuses and reveals some of the challenges they face. Margaret Baechtold, retired Air Force officer and director of Indiana University-Bloomington's center for veterans, offers her commentary about the phenomenon of female college students with military experience. "Ideas for a Self-Authorship Curriculum for Students with Military Experience" draws heavily from the research of Baxter Magolda, Pizzalato, and others to conceive of ways in which a course for veterans can help in their transition to college. Marcia Baxter Magolda provides insightful commentary on the topic. "Institutional Response to an Emerging Population of Veterans" provides the types of empirical evidence and inferential analyses needed for data-driven decision making by senior administrators and policymakers. (Contains 12 figures, 4 exhibits, and name and subject indexes.)"
  3. Evans, J. J., Pellegrino, L., & Hoggan, C. (2015). Supporting veterans at the community college: A review of the literature. Community College Enterprise, 21(1), 47-65.
    From the abstract: "As postsecondary institutions seek ways to attract military veterans as students, they ostensibly grapple with how to best support these men and women once they arrive on campus. Although there are dozens of financial, academic, and emotional support systems available through the government, academic institutions, and non-profit organizations, there is little evidence of the efficacy of any of the supports offered. Further, the prospect of devising broad-reaching, targeted supports for student veterans seems taxing, particularly as budgets are stretched thin. This article examines some large-scale and targeted institutional support systems that are being implemented in community colleges. A thorough exploration of the existing literature reveals that existing supports, while commendable, are either untested, unreasonable for widespread implementation, or are simply in need of modification to accommodate veteran students. With nearly 2 million men and women returning from active duty in the coming years, community colleges are poised to serve as an academic starting point for many of these service members. This article underscores the importance of identifying student veterans, understanding their academic and emotional needs, and offering appropriate and informed support systems."
  4. Griffin, K. A., & Gilbert, C. K. (2015). Better transitions for troops: An application of Schlossberg's transition framework to analyses of barriers and institutional support structures for student veterans. Journal of Higher Education, 86(1), 71-97.
    From the abstract: "Scholssberg's transition theory is used to frame qualitative analysis of narratives from veterans, administrators, and student affairs professionals, examining whether and how institutions can influence veterans' transitions to higher education. Findings suggest how institutional structures assist students in developing navigational strategies, as well institutional actions and policies that pose transitional challenges."
  5. Jenner, B. M. (2019). Student veterans in transition: The impact of peer community. Journal of The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition, 31(1), 69-83.
    From the abstract: "Differences in contextual norms between the U.S. military and institutions of higher education mean that student veterans may experience difficulty integrating into the wider campus community, leading to educational inequity. However, this situation may be mitigated by the presence of a strong student veteran peer community. Previous studies of student veterans in higher education have shown that connecting with peers (particularly peers who have military experience) is an important part of the college experience; however, the nature of these peer connections has yet to be investigated. The current study examines the experiences of veterans at a Southern California community college's Veteran Resource Center to illuminate the role of peer community for veterans transitioning from military service into higher education. Results indicate the presence of a robust veteran peer community can play a pivotal role in veterans' transition to higher education."
  6. Kirchner, M. J. (2015). Supporting student veteran transition to college and academic success. Adult Learning, 26(3), 116-123.
    From the abstract: "Veterans enrolled in college face unique challenges compared with those of traditional students. Their experiences and perspectives, coupled with battling stereotypes and entering an unstructured college setting, contribute toward what can be a difficult transition. Student veteran organizations, veteran resource centers, veteran-specific orientations, and faculty training are relatively new approaches used by universities and have not been well-researched or reported. Educators need to be aware of the currently offered services and prepared to establish a safe environment for student veterans in their classrooms. By acknowledging student veterans and understanding how to support them in the classroom, education providers may be less concerned about the veteran stereotypes that persist today. This article provides adult educators with an overview of student veterans and their transition into college, offers suggestions to ease veterans' adjustment to the classroom, and provides research opportunities for faculty to further advance higher education's understanding of student veterans."
  7. O'Connor, A., Herbst, E., McCaslin, S., Armstrong, K., Leach, B., & Jersky, B. (2018). Supporting veteran transitions to the academic setting: VA on campus. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 42(5), 305-315.
    From the abstract: "In this case study, we assessed academic functioning, service satisfaction, and needs of student veterans at a community college who had accessed the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Student Veteran Health Program (SVHP) (n = 36). The SVHP provides outreach and behavioral health services directly on a large community college campus to overcome common barriers to engagement in mental health care (e.g., distance from a VA medical center). Academic difficulties that were most commonly reported were in the areas of retention of information, meeting deadlines, and cooperation with other students. Overall, the majority of student veterans who received services in the SVHP were satisfied (76.5%). Services targeting attention and concentration and utilization of educational benefits were highlighted as important by student veterans. This case study of VA services delivered within the community college setting provides important insights into how to design VA services to target the needs of student veterans. Specific recommendations for supporting student veterans on a community college campus are discussed."
  8. Oswald, B. B., Walton, A. J., Campbell, D. G., & Seufert, R. L. (2019). How coordinating veterans services on campus can increase satisfaction in military-affiliated students. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 30(2), 29-54.
    From the abstract: "The authors report outcomes for veteran-friendly initiatives on the regional and main campuses of a mid-sized university in the Midwestern U.S. Across three years, 1270 military-affiliated students were self- or institutionally identified (paid tuition with VA benefits) and invited to complete telephone or online surveys assessing their satisfaction with campus services. Four hundred fifteen (32.6%) students participated. Institutional commitment to add centers for veterans' services, a coordinator of veterans services, a "One-Stop" office for registration and financial aid, and veteran-friendly programs increased student satisfaction with advising, tuition payment, and staff support. Areas for continued improvement identified included transition assistance, academic credit for military experience, and respect for military-affiliated students."
  9. Taylor, A., Parks, R., & Edwards, A. (2016). Challenges on the front lines: Serving today's student veterans. College and University, 91(4), 47-60.
    From the abstract: "In recent years, veterans have enrolled at higher education institutions in vastly increasingly numbers to utilize their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. In response to this influx, universities have established a variety of resources and support systems designed to serve the needs of student veterans. There has also been heightened attention toward veterans returning from service with mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mild traumatic brain injury. Media outlets and politicians have reported that veterans are not receiving the treatment they need in order to transition successfully to civilian life. Quite apart from misconceptions regarding veterans and mental illness, many student veterans struggle to earn a degree because of the rigid structure of higher education and inflexible curricula. The current mixed methods study examines whether college administrators have reported changes in student veterans' psychological characteristics since the Post 9/11 GI Bill's full implementation in 2009. With more veterans utilizing their Post-9/11 GI benefits to pursue higher education and with institutions developing departments and staff to serve student veterans, the authors also seek to examine whether there are noticeable changes in student veterans' behaviors. The research found that higher education administrators do not report more challenges in working with student veterans today than they did in previous years. Participants also discussed the importance of providing support systems for student veterans and identified specific challenges that accompany the transition from the military to college life. Further research is proposed to understand the impact of veterans' offices on student veterans."
  10. Vance, M. L., & Miller, W. K., II. (2009). Serving wounded warriors: Current practices in postsecondary education. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 22(1), 18-35.
    From the abstract: "From September to October 2009 the Association on Higher Education and Disabilities (AHEAD) invited anonymous voluntary responses from 2,500 members and affiliates to complete a 29-question online survey on current practices in postsecondary education for serving veterans with disabilities (wounded warriors). Two hundred and thirty seven complete surveys were received. Survey results provide the numbers and types of disabilities served and type of accommodations provided to wounded warriors. Respondents indicated that identifying an institution point person to assist with the reintegration of veterans from military to classroom was a priority for improving services. (Contains 3 tables.)"


Keywords and Search Strings
The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Academic support services for veterans
  • University support for veterans

Databases and Resources
We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published for last 15 years, from 2003 to present, were include in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, PsychInfo, PsychArticle, and Google Scholar.
  • Methodology: Following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types - randomized control trials,, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, etc., generally in this order (b) target population, samples (representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected, etc.), study duration, etc. (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, etc.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Southeast Region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast at Florida State University. This memorandum was prepared by REL Southeast under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0011, administered by Florida State University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.