Hoping to boost military-affiliated student success, colleges try targeted strategies

Military-affiliated students—those who are currently serving, veterans, and family members—may benefit from targeted retention strategies that reflect their unique strengths and needs, according to Education Dive.

While two-thirds of student veterans are first-generation students, their graduation rate is on par with the national average. Still, industry experts contend that it could be even higher with targeted improvements to college support systems.

For example, students who have served in the military are used to structured days, missions, and career tracks, so they benefit from clear directions and goal attainment schedules as they progress through their education. Military-affiliated students also value respect; they tend to thrive when treated as capable professionals, not singled out or chastised.

Education Dive also highlights camaraderie as something students may miss after leaving the military, noting that colleges are addressing this gap by pursuing cohort models; support systems like veterans programs or housing options; and one-on-one mentorship opportunities, especially if a veteran is enrolling online and learning in a more solitary environment.

One university with a robust veterans student program, University of North Carolina Wilmington, where about 10 percent of students are military-affiliated, also prioritizes career education tracks that military members and their spouses could continue in any part of the world. “Recognizing that military-affiliated students and spouses can be deployed anywhere at any time, UNCW focused on portable careers that also provide a sense of higher purpose,” said Richard Ogle, senior associate provost for academic affairs.

UNCW also has created an on-campus veterans center, which introduces them to fellow veterans, key resources, and career counselors. “Having a community and a sense of mission gives [military-affiliated students] an almost sense of respite,” Ogle said.

Georgetown University’s Veterans Office serves military connected students as they apply to, attend, and advance beyond Georgetown. The Veterans Office connects military students with the resources they need to successfully transition from combat to classroom to career.

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