Student Veterans and Academic Benefits

Abstract

The project reviews the main issues faced by U.S. veterans and shows how the Post-9/11 GI Bill aims to address them by offering financial assistance to student veterans. The paper outlines the benefits and limitations of the policy and provides specific recommendations for improvement.

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In the contemporary political context, the issues affecting American veterans are especially prominent. After defending the country’s interests abroad, veterans come back to the United States to face concerns regarding their future and the future of their families. In particular, retirement from the military usually means that people need to find a new source of income. However, a lack of specialized education limits the employment options of veterans, while financial concerns affect their ability to pay for higher education.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is a newer version of the GI Bill that provides education benefits to veterans who have served on active duty for at least 90 days after September 11, 2001. The policy is intended to facilitate the reintegration of veterans into civilian life by improving their skill set and career prospects. The bill has several key components that distinguish it from previous programs and increase its effectiveness in achieving this goal. The research shows that veterans’ educational attainment is a critical problem in the U.S., and although the Post-9/11 GI Bill resolves some issues by providing financial assistance to student veterans, there are several areas of improvement that should be addressed to make the policy more effective.

Description of the Problem

Veterans’ education is a significant issue in contemporary America, as thousands of veterans return home each year and enter the U.S. educational system. Borsani et al. (2017) state that as of 2017, 2.5 million veterans who served in Iraq have enrolled in college with the help of veterans education policies sponsored by the U.S. government. For these people, obtaining higher education presents numerous challenges that affect their success in education. First of all, most veterans face financial problems upon retiring from the military, as they have limited job opportunities without a specialized college degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2018), there were 370,000 unemployed veterans in 2017, 59% of whom were 25 to 54 years old. Financial problems influence college enrollment, as not all veterans can pay for college tuition.

Another important issue is that many college programs do not provide sufficient accommodations for veterans. For example, Borsani et al. (2017) state that veterans take longer to complete a college degree than students who have never served in the military. Many veterans also have physical or mental health issues that can affect college attendance and educational success. Physical disabilities and mental disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, generalized anxiety disorder, and depression, are often diagnosed in veterans (Borsari et al., 2017).

The symptoms associated with these problems affect college retention rates and the academic performance of student veterans. Additionally, many veterans may lack the skills and resources required to complete an undergraduate degree successfully. Falkey (2016) states that veterans are often less experienced than other college students in math and writing, and many educational institutions do not provide support for developmental education.

Finally, there are also specific emotional issues that affect the successful integration of veterans into the United States’ educational system. The differences in experience between student veterans and students who have never served in the military cause feelings of alienation and isolation (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2018). Although connecting with other veterans could help to foster a sense of belonging and improve adjustment to civilian life, few colleges provide such programs (Falkey, 2016). Feelings of isolation and alienation could affect the social functioning and academic performance of veteran students, causing them to be less active in class and struggle with building the communication skills required in educational settings.

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Historical Background of the GI Bill

The GI Bill program had been initiated in 1944 when the country anticipated an influx of veterans into higher education after the end of World War II (Falkey, 2016). Before that, the World War Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924 provided cash bonuses to war veterans to facilitate their re-integration into society (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs [DVA], 2013). In Hawaii, the GI Bill was introduced after the territory became part of the United States in 1959.

The evolution of these bills shows the changes in the government’s understanding of the issues affecting veterans. The 1924 act only recognized the veteran’s financial needs, whereas the GI Bill of 1944 also provided benefits with regards to education, home construction, and employment (DVA, 2013). The Montgomery GI Bill was also introduced as a specific measure to facilitate the education and training of veterans.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill specifically targets veterans who were on active duty for at least 90 days after September 11, 2001. It was introduced in 2008 following the extensive military operations abroad as part of the War on Terror. The main changes provided in the Post-9/11 GI Bill are a living allowance, increased coverage of educational expenses, and the opportunity to transfer education benefits to family members. The post-9/11 version of the GI Bill is thus the most comprehensive in terms of support provided to student veterans.

Post-9/11 GI Bill Description

The particular amendment to the GI Bill that will be considered in the project is the post-9/11 version, which extended the validity period for certain benefits and extended the coverage of the policy. First, the Post-9/11 GI Bill covers the full price of tuition for in-state schools up to the amount of $22,805.34 (DVA, n.d.). Second, the Bill provides a Basic Allowance for Housing that covers the cost of living in a city or town where the chosen college or school is located (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs [DVA], n.d.). Third, the bill provides up to 36 months of education benefits, which can be transferred to close family members.

For veterans whose service on active duty ended before January 1, 2013, these benefits are payable for 15 years after the end of active duty (DVA, n.d.). However, for those who were on active duty after this date, there is no time limit to use the education benefits, as provided by the Forever GI Bill (DVA, n.d.). The education benefits can be used to cover school fees as well as books and other supplies. In addition to these provisions, the Post-9/11 GI Bill also allows veterans to obtain funding for private or out-of-state school tuition and fees and transfer benefits fully or partially to a spouse or child (DVA, n.d.). The development and implementation of the Post-9/11 Bill were supported by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The main audience of the project is veterans who have retired from active duty after 200 and have returned home to obtain education and employment. The particular veteran population that is most affected by the Bill includes unemployed veterans. Unemployment among veterans is a significant problem because it impacts their socioeconomic status and prevents successful reintegration into the civilian society.

Last year, the Department of Labor reported that veteran unemployment was at a record low, with only 2.7% unemployed veterans in the U.S. (Kasperkevic, 2017). However, this figure only includes veterans who are not employed and are currently searching for work and thus can be misleading (Kasperkevic, 2017). Many veterans do not begin a job search for years after retiring from active duty because they feel like they do not have adequate skills and competencies to be competitive applicants. The Bill also influences educational attainment among low-income veterans and those with mental or physical impairment since it contributes to their employability.

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Goals and Effects

The main short-term goal of the Post-9/11 GI Bill is to encourage veterans to start planning for their future career by enrolling in specialized educational programs. The benefits provided by the bill apply to a variety of educational and training programs and their components, including “correspondence training, co-op training, entrepreneurship training, flight training, independent and distance learning, undergraduate and graduate degrees, licensing and certification, vocational/technical training and non-college degrees, national testing, on-the-job training and apprenticeship, tuition assistance top-up, and tutorial assistance” (DVA, n.d., para. 9).

Hence the bill provides sufficient flexibility regarding the choice of educational or training program. The short-term objectives are to improve veterans’ enrollment in educational programs, promote retention of student veterans, and increase their academic performance. Using the benefits provided by the bill, veterans can choose a career that interests them and take steps towards entering this career regardless of their financial capabilities. Thus the long-term goal of the bill is to facilitate the reintegration of veterans into civilian life by improving their employability and helping them to develop the knowledge and skills required to succeed in their chosen career paths.

There are no official government publications on the effectiveness of the bill. Therefore the evaluation of the Post-9/11 Bill is based primarily on scholarly research. There are a number of studies that discuss the effectiveness of the bill using different evaluation criteria. For example, a study by Zhang (2017) compared college enrollment before and after the implementation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The research found that overall college enrollment increased by 3% on average, with the largest improvement in older veterans (45+ years old) and in those with a high level of existing education (Zhang, 2017).

Another study by Wenger et al. (2017) that was published by RAND Corporation evaluated the bill’s effectiveness in attracting high-quality recruits to military service, improving the continuity of education, and increasing the intention to use benefits, as well as its relationship to other veterans assistance programs. The researchers concluded that the bill achieved positive results according to all of these evaluation criteria.

As seen above, the evaluation of the bill considers the short-term outcomes of its policies. Although it would be useful to assess its long-term impact, this would require sufficient resources to conduct a nationwide study on veterans’ employment and their use of the education benefits provided by the bill. Thus, even though the long-term goals and objectives of the bill are well-defined, it is unclear whether or not the bill is capable of reaching them.

Stakeholders of the Policy

The primary stakeholders of the bill are veterans who were serving on active duty after 9/11, as well as their spouses and children. The bill increases their chances of being successful in their chosen career path by enhancing their employability. The benefits provided by the bill also stimulate veterans to start planning for future education and employment after returning home, thus also supporting their re-integration into civilian society. State educational institutions are also among the stakeholders of the bill, as the policy improves enrollment rates and provides financial support from the government.

Employers also benefit from the bill, as it develops the skillset and knowledge of potential employees who have been serving on active duty. Finally, the government is also a stakeholder in the bill, as it provides funding for veterans to continue their education while also attracting new recruits to the military. As evident from the discussion, the bill offers certain advantages to all of these stakeholders, and thus their position on the policy is positive.

Policy Analysis

The stated goal of the Post-9/11 GI Bill is to facilitate the educational attainment of veterans by providing financial support. The goal of the policy is to increase the enrollment of veterans in educational programs and improve their employability over the long term, thus promoting their future career development. The ideological assumption that underlines the policy is that the government should support the reintegration of army veterans into civilian society in order to promote social equality. The bill does indeed target one of the most critical issues faced by veterans following retirement from active duty, which is the threat of unemployment.

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Due to their service and its consequences, such as physical and mental health issues, veterans are at a disadvantage when entering the job market. They often have limited flexibility in terms of future careers due to a lack of specialized education and skills. Thus the value premises of the bill contribute to greater social equality by supporting veterans in obtaining formal education or the training required to enter a new career.

The economic feasibility of the policy requires an understanding of its costs to the government. According to Dortch (2018), the cost of the policy has doubled between 2010 and 2017, increasing from $5.5 billion to $11 billion. The increased expense was due to improved participation and higher average benefit per participant, and thus it is expected that the costs of the policy will surpass $12 billion in 2018 and 2019 (Dortch, 2018).

At the moment, the bill remains economically feasible, as the government is capable of covering the costs of the bill. However, as the number of participants increases further, the bill might become too costly for the government. From the political and administrative viewpoints, the bill will remain feasible, as its implementation is controlled by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (Dortch, 2018). As a distinctive governmental body, the DVA has the capacity to oversee the implementation and progress of the bill without needing more political and administrative resources.

Equity-Based Framework

The use of an equity-based framework implies that a specific policy helps to decrease the gap between a particular at-risk group and the rest of the population. The specific at-risk group of veterans that can be supported through the Post-9/11 GI Bill is unemployed military veterans. Loughran (2014) discusses the issue of unemployment among veterans in a report to the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

The research shows that the unemployment rate among veterans is higher than among non-veterans of the same age (Loughran, 2014). The author suggests that there are several critical causes for veteran unemployment, including health issues, skills mismatch, and difficulties in the job search. For instance, veterans who have recently retired from military service might lack the skills and knowledge needed to enter a particular career, and therefore it takes them longer to find a suitable job (Loughran, 2014). The GI Bill helps to remedy the situation by meeting veterans’ needs for training and education, thus reducing the gap in skills and employability between veterans and non-veterans.

The particular subgroup within the unemployed veteran population that should be mentioned specifically includes veterans who have a physical impairment or a disability. These veterans face more issues during their job search than any other subgroup of the chosen population due to limited physical capacity. Obtaining a higher education degree would thus improve their opportunity to enter a promising career field. Disabled veterans are also less likely to be able to afford higher education because it is harder for them to work part-time to finance their tuition and expenses.

While many other veteran students can find a part-time job that will provide some additional income, part-time positions often involve physical tasks that disabled veterans will be unable to complete. Therefore, veterans with physical impairment also benefit from the housing allowance and financial support provided by the Post-9/11 GI Bill. From the viewpoint of the equity-based framework, the Bill assists in closing the gap in employment, income, and level of educational attainment between disabled veterans and the general population.

Policy Alternatives

Despite the fact that the Post-9/11 GI Bill is successful in improving veteran students’ enrollment in educational and training programs, there are some policy alternatives that might better achieve this goal. First, it could be beneficial to establish a more comprehensive policy that would increase the scope of financial assistance to veteran students who are studying part-time or enrolled in distance learning. Second, besides financial support and a Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), an alternative policy could cover the cost of additional tutoring in writing and math skills, as well as psychological support.

Finally, it would also be helpful to establish a policy that would include various orientation events where veteran students could meet each other and learn more about entering civilian life. These policies would promote social equality by addressing non-financial gaps between veterans and non-veterans, including mental health issues and feelings of isolation. Nevertheless, they would also require a considerable increase in funding from the government. The Post-9/11 GI Bill is a worthy expenditure, as it uses resources to address the most vital problems faced by student veterans.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Overall, education is of critical importance to veterans, as it can help them to enter a new career and adjust to civilian life. Nevertheless, veterans experience a variety of issues that influence their successful integration into the U.S. educational system. Financial concerns, physical and mental health problems, as well as the differences in skills and experiences between veterans and non-veteran students, affect student veterans’ academic success and their outlook with regards to future life and education.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill attempts to resolve some of these problems by providing financial assistance to veterans. This bill is a new and improved version of previous GI Bills that takes into account the needs of veterans in today’s world, thus facilitating their adjustment and improving their future outlook. The Post-9/11 GI Bill is valid from a social equity perspective, as it helps to eliminate the gaps between veterans and non-veterans with regards to educational attainment.

By increasing veterans’ enrollment in educational institutions and thus their employability, the bill also supports state schools and employers. The policy is beneficial for the government, as it has proved to be effective in improving the influx of high-quality recruits into the military. However, the bill has some limitations that should be addressed in order to increase its efficiency and achieve long-term goals.

The first recommendation is to eliminate the Yellow Ribbon Program and expand the type of schools that students can attend with the aid of their education benefits by including out-of-state and private institutions. This would allow for more flexibility in choosing degree programs while also improving veteran employees’ attractiveness to employers. The second recommendation is to provide a BAH stipend to part-time students in order to enable them to concentrate on their studies and complete programs faster. The third recommendation is to increase the term of education benefits to four years, as this would also help veterans to achieve a higher level of education, thus enhancing their job prospects.

Implementing these recommendations would help to fill in the gaps of the bill while also encouraging more veteran students to participate in the program. It would also cater to the needs of veteran students who cannot study full-time or on-campus or finish a course of study in three years due to physical or psychological constraints. Therefore, the recommended amendments would also promote social equity for disadvantaged student veterans, thus helping to achieve the long-term goals of the policy.

References

Borsari, B., Yurasek, A., Miller, M. B., Murphy, J. G., McDevitt-Murphy, M. E., Martens, M. P.,… Carey, K. B. (2017). Student service members/veterans on campus: Challenges for reintegration. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 87(2), 166-175.

Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2018). Employment situation of veterans summary. Web.

Dortch, C. (2018). The Post-9/11 GI Bill: A primer. Web.

Falkey, M. E. (2016). An emerging population: Student veterans in higher education in the 21st century. Journal of Academic Administration in Higher Education, 12(1), 27-39.

Kasperkevic, J. (2017). The veteran unemployment rate is down but that doesn’t mean they are doing great. Marketplace. Web.

Loughran, D. S. (2014). Why is veteran unemployment so high? Web.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch. (2018). Veterans returning to college face unique challenges. Web.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2013). History and timeline. Web.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). Post-9/11 GI Bill. Web.

Wenger, J. W., Miller, T., Baird, M. D., Buryk, P., Daugherty, L., Graf, M.,… Yeung, D. (2017). Are current military education benefits efficient and effective for the services? Web.

Zhang, L. (2018). Veterans going to college: Evaluating the impact of the Post-9/11 GI Bill on college enrollment. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 40(1), 82-102.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, April 25). Student Veterans and Academic Benefits. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/student-veterans-and-academic-benefits-research-paper/

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