Unique Challenges Student Veterans Face

Posted on
May 26, 2021
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Many of the challenges veterans encounter with college services are clear; either the college lacks dedicated staff knowledgeable in veterans’ issues and resources or they lack cultural awareness to appropriately interact with veterans. These issues can be solved by investing in resources, recruiting quality staff, and by delivering regular training on veteran culture and needs.

Still, many issues are not known to staff, including:

  • Veterans may make the leap to college immediately after transitioning from the military because they want to quickly move to the next phase of their lives. Oftentimes this is while they are still dealing with transition issues and before they are truly ready to take on the responsibility of school. Other times they are wanting to use their GI Bill benefits, but as they may not know what degree they plan to pursue, they end up burning through their benefits.  
  • Financial difficulties can linger from service and be exacerbated by the impulse or necessity to take on loans while in college to cover expenses. Oftentimes, this is due to limitations in VA benefits.
  • Despite that many veterans receive VA benefits, food insecurity and lack of shelter create further obstacles to education.  
  • Much like other non-traditional students, veterans tend to have obligations outside of school and must care for families while pursuing their degrees.
  • Mental health needs remain a key threat to student success. Psychological trauma has been found to impact veterans’ academic success and campus integration.  Crowded situations, classroom discussion topics, and other on-campus stressors can trigger and distress veterans. Some researchers claim this puts student veterans at higher risk for dropping out of institutions that fail to provide them with supportive services.
  • Many campus staff and faculty are not culturally informed of veteran experiences and unique needs. This further isolates veterans and creates barriers to needed resources.  
  • Veterans may need reasonable accommodation but are unaware of how to seek such services. Disability offices and faculty may have limited understanding of service-connected injuries that have the potential to impact academic performance.
  • Veteran resource centers (VRCs) on campus may be under-resourced and lack service coordination with other departments on campus. Schools may assume that all needs are addressed by VRCs and this can create insular resources.  

Listen to Victor Inzunza, Marine Corps Iraq Veteran, and Tyler Solorio, Army Afghanistan Veteran, discuss what veterans should know before attending college.

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