A primary purpose of military education benefits is to assist service members' transitions back to civilian life, but the benefits likely have implications for recruiting and retention as well. This research takes a mixed-methods approach to examine the effects of education benefit programs on recruiting and retention–related outcomes, and to assess how the two largest education benefits may work together.
Are Current Military Education Benefits Efficient and Effective for the Services?
- How do military education benefits influence recruiting?
- How do military education benefits influence retention?
Service members have access to a variety of education benefits. A primary purpose of these benefits is to assist service members' transitions back to civilian life, but the benefits likely have implications for recruiting and retention as well. This research for the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness takes a mixed-methods approach to examine the effects of education benefit programs on recruiting and retention–related outcomes, and to assess how the two largest education benefits may work together. As part of the study, RAND researchers examine Internet search data, qualitative data from focus groups with new service members and interviews with college counselors, survey data in which service members report their plans to use education benefits, and quantitative data on the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Tuition Assistance, as well as information from service members' administrative records. One main finding is that the passage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill appears to have had relatively small effects on recruiting and retention. A likely reason for this is that service members appear to lack a detailed understanding of this benefit, especially in their early careers. Another main finding is that service members appear to use both the Tuition Assistance and Post-9/11 GI Bill programs together to further their education.
Post-9/11 GI Bill (PGIB) Benefits Appear to Play a Small Positive Role in Attracting Potential Recruits
- The Post-9/11 GI Bill does appear to attract additional high-quality recruits.
Many New Recruits Know That Education Benefits Exist but Lack Insight on Details
- Results from focus groups suggest that a general awareness of benefits, rather than specific restrictions or benefit components, is likely to be driving enlistment decisions.
Intention to Use Education Benefits Has Increased over Time
- Data collected through the Status of Forces surveys suggest that intentions to use education benefits change throughout a service member's military career.
Passage of the PGIB Has a Small Negative Effect on Continuation, Which the Transfer Option Appears to Mitigate Somewhat
- Continuation did decrease after the passage of the PGIB, and some of the decrease cannot be explained by other factors.
Interviews with College Advisors Suggest That Some Enrolled Service Members and Veterans May Lack Understanding of PGIB Benefits
- However, current service members using the Tuition Assistance (TA) program were perceived to be generally well informed about their TA benefits.
TA and PGIB Benefits Complement Each Other Rather Than Overlap
- Coordination between the two programs could prove beneficial.
- Provide additional or more targeted information to potential recruits.
- Expand and/or make mandatory counseling services for first-time PGIB users.
- Expand and continue to fine-tune the GI Bill Comparison Tool.
- Provide key information about benefit and transfer options and requirements to those nearing the end of an enlistment term or nearing transfer eligibility.
- Encourage the use of the TA program.
- Continue to focus on traditional tools, such as bonuses, to achieve force management.
- Continue careful tracking of recruit quality and retention metrics.
- Carefully calibrate the alignment between DoD and VA on changes to the PGIB.
- Invest in additional research focused on forecasting the costs of education benefits.
Table of Contents
Research on the Impact of Military Service and Education Benefits on Educational Attainment and Civilian Earnings
Perspectives of New Recruits on Military Education Benefits
Perspectives of College Military and Veteran Student Offices on Military Education Benefits
Empirical Strategies and Results
Other Sources of Information: Search Data, Survey Data
Conclusions and Recommendations
Detailed Overview of Education Benefits Available to Service Members and Veterans
Additional Data on TA and PGIB
Additional Quantitative Results
Additional Information on Internet Search Data
Status of Forces Analyses, Methods, and Data Description