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
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.
- 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.”
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.