Veterans who want to go to college face a lot of challenges, not the least of which is figuring out how to get there – how to enroll, how to register for classes, and how to use benefits.
In addition, they often have a difficult time relating to their new environment. A recent study conducted by the Department of Labor reported that up to 88 percent of all veterans will drop out in their first year. Only three percent will graduate.
The students sitting in class beside them have no idea what they have seen or experienced. Veterans have been to war. They have seen the world, warts and all. They have been responsible for millions of dollars’ worth of equipment and the lives of those with whom they have worked. Some have seen death. The closest the majority of college students have been to combat have been in video games.
The GI Bill helps tremendously, and is the best veteran education program to come along since World War II. But as good as it is, it has limitations. The program pays for 36 months of education (theoretically 9 months’ of school for four years). Most veterans take five years to graduate.
So where do they go for help?
I found out the answer to that today. Many schools around the country have a person on staff whose primary function is to serve veterans. They understand VA benefits and know how to apply them. They are called Veteran Program Administrators, and their job is to certify and deliver VA services to veterans returning to school.
They have organized themselves into a national organization called The National Association of Veterans’ Program Administrators (NAVPA), and today I had the honor of attending their annual training conference. Their goal is to cut through the bureaucratic red tape and deliver the benefits veterans need to get a degree, certification or license.
During the day I met many of them, representing schools from across the country. Each of them shared a common trait. Not only were they thirsty to learn as much as they could about veteran programs, they were invested in the idea of helping those who have served. In a sense, they have become mentors for the thousands of veterans coming to the college campuses for the first time.
If you are a veteran intending to go to school after leaving the service, ask to speak to the Veterans’ Program Administrator. If you are having trouble finding yours, go to www.navpa.org or send an email to them (click here) to get help.
As a nation we must improve the percentages of veterans completing degree or certification programs. NAVPA professionals are the first step toward doing that.