November 11, 2010
A RAND Corporation study released today for the first time provides data on the experiences of student veterans and campus administrators during the first year of the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
Based on the results of an online survey and focus group sessions on multiple campuses in three states, "Service Members in School: Military Veterans' Experiences Using the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Pursuing Higher Education" also explores student experiences with transferring military training to academic credit and transitioning from military service to campus life.
Sponsored by the Lumina Foundation for Education, the report is part of American Council on Education's Serving Those Who Serve initiative.
Among the findings:
- Approximately 24 percent of survey respondents and a substantial share of focus group participants reported that the existence of the new GI Bill had driven their decision to enroll in higher education.
- About 18 percent of survey respondents and a small share of focus group participants, mainly concentrated in private institutions, said the new GI Bill's existence had driven their choice of higher education institution.
- Thirty-eight percent of survey respondents and numerous focus group participants reported having difficulty understanding their GI Bill benefit options and choosing the best education benefit for their needs.
"It was clear from the outset that implementing this generous new education benefit would be a challenge for both the Department of Veterans Affairs and campus administrators," said American Council on Education President Molly Corbett Broad. "We felt it was important, after a full year of the new benefit, to go beyond anecdote and start to gather data about the impact of the Post-9/11 GI Bill."
"About 2 million Americans have served this country in Afghanistan and Iraq," said Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of Lumina Foundation. "These veterans are now poised to take advantage of the 'new GI bill,' and our higher education system is eager to serve them well. We think this report can give colleges and universities the information they need to do that. Clearly, returning vets deserve every chance at college success. Just as important: Our nation needs them to succeed and continue to contribute to this nation's economic future."
Using the Post-9/11 GI Bill
- Focus group participants were satisfied with several aspects of the law, including benefits that provide tuition and fees paid directly to the institution, a living allowance and book stipend; no requirement to pay into the new GI Bill; and ability to participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program for those enrolling in private institutions or public graduate programs.
- Challenges faced by benefit recipients include delays in receipt of tuition and living allowance payments, overpayments resulting in debt collection notices and living allowance suspensions, and limited access to required courses.
"We learned that, despite some of the early implementation challenges, the Post-9/11 GI Bill is helping veterans who would not otherwise be able to pursue higher education," said Jennifer Steele, an associate policy researcher at RAND and the report's lead author. "However, while the financial support from the Department of Veterans Affairs is crucial, there is also a role for higher education institutions to play in assisting veterans' transitions. They can do this by ensuring that administrative staff understand the new GI Bill, by setting transparent and consistent rules for transferring military training to academic credits, and by providing information sessions aimed at veterans to help familiarize them with the resources available on campus."
Founded in 1918, the American Council on Education is the major coordinating body for all the nation's higher education institutions, representing more than 1,600 college and university presidents, and more than 200 related associations. It provides leadership on key higher education issues and influences public policy through advocacy.
Lumina Foundation for Education, an Indianapolis-based private foundation, is committed to enrolling and graduating more students from college—especially 21st century students: low-income students, students of color, first-generation students and adult learners. Lumina's goal is to increase the percentage of Americans who hold high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by 2025. Lumina pursues this goal by identifying and supporting effective practice, through public policy advocacy, and by using its communications and convening power to build public will for change. For more information visit www.luminafoundation.org.