According to United States Navy veteran and Auburn professor David DiRamio, Ph.D., the first wave of research about student veterans – particularly those entering colleges and universities on the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill – focused on their transition from military service to civilian life. This research also showed the importance of peer connections and support services on campus for this unique population.
More recently, findings from the Million Records Project initiated a second wave of research on student veterans, this time focusing on their academic success in the postsecondary arena. One significant finding was that veterans’ completion rate surpassed “any other post-traditional student group and were similar to the rates for traditional college students.” But DiRamio posits that post-9/11 student veteran enrollment has likely peaked, and support and enthusiasm for these students may soon “move off the public’s radar.” To that end, What’s Next for Student Veterans?: Moving from Transition to Academic Success, published by the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, has two primary objectives:
- To present findings from the “second wave” of research about student veterans with a focus on academic success factors; and
- To advocate for the higher education community to support this unique population, even in the face of declining enrollments.
Following DiRamio’s helpful introduction, various scholars contribute ten chapters in the general areas of “Experiences and Perspectives,” and “Programs and Academic Outcomes.” Topics in this first section include inquiries into opportunities and inequities; engagement patterns of disabled student veterans; and mental health and academic functioning of service members in higher education. The second section explores such topics as promising institutional practices; peer support for veterans; progress toward degree attainment; academic outcomes; student attrition; and essential practices ( a kind of case study).
Section III of the book features DiRamio’s research- and experience-based essay entitled “What’s Next? Charting the Course Before Moving Off the Radar.” In this chapter, DiRamio lays out seven areas of concern, or “unfinished business relative to support services for student veterans.” These include:
- Staffing and collaboration;
- Faculty and staff training;
- Evaluating military schooling for college credit;
- Preparing students for transition into the workforce;
- Reaching out to military-connected students;
- Addressing educational inequity; and
- Exploring the nexus of traumatic brain injury, mental health, and substance abuse.
This valuable, research-driven work is critical reading for several audiences, beginning with the highest level of college and university administrators whose institutions have student veteran populations. DiRamio makes the case that firm and workable policies must be implemented before the issue of student veterans “fades from the public radar.” Above all, this important book points up the truth that supporting the postsecondary pursuits of this generation of men and women who have served our country in war, helping to preserve the freedoms that we all enjoy, is not only the socio-politically correct approach toward student veterans; it is, above all, “the right thing to do.”