Role of Higher Education in Veteran Readjustment

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thanks in large part to the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the Yellow Ribbon program, veterans are returning home from war and attending college in record numbers.

This is a wonderful trend. It means men and women who served and sacrificed for their country in many different capacities are now pursuing advanced degrees. Veterans of war present unique challenges to institutions of higher education. By addressing these issues, colleges and universities have an opportunity to play an important role in a veteran’s reintegration into civilian life.

College is a good segue for veterans. Just as college is a step toward independence for all students, it can be a stepping stone for veterans to get back into everyday routines.

The first year is critical. In many cases, veterans are older and more mature adults. Sometimes they feel uncomfortable in classrooms full of undergraduate students who cannot relate to the traumatic experiences of war. Some also find it difficult to downshift to more mundane tasks like studying, managing time and taking care of household chores after living the adrenaline rush of combat every day.

Veterans generally need a safe space where they can talk to other veterans who have had the same types of experiences and are going through similar issues of readjustment.

Norwich and the other 18 member institutions of the Association of Vermont Independent Colleges (AVIC) are generally small and therefore agile enough organizations to respond appropriately and with compassion to the needs of veterans.

In addition to flexibility in program offerings, such as low-residency options, many Vermont colleges are tailoring their services to accommodate veterans’ timelines for the receipt of GI Bill benefits, and many have chapters of Student Veterans of America.

Marlboro College was built on educating veterans. Thirty five of its first 50 students attended on the WWII GI Bill, which established its self-directed and self-reliant identity. Southern Vermont College just started a scholarship for veterans.

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