Today, we are excited to release Making the Case for Student Veterans: Building Support for Student Veteran Enrollment. This publication is the first brief in a series from the American Talent Initiative (ATI) focused on helping college and university leaders lay the groundwork for enrolling, supporting, and graduating more student veterans. 

Student veterans are significantly underrepresented at the colleges and universities with the highest graduation rates: only 10 percent of GI Bill recipients attend institutions with six-year graduation rates above 70 percent, compared to 21 percent of the overall student population. This lack of access is a detriment to veterans, who would benefit from attending the institutions where they are most likely to graduate, but also to the institutions that miss out on a diverse, talented group of students.

Yet, increasingly, high-graduation rate institutions are eager to enroll more student veterans. In fact, 43 members of ATI have formed a community of practice focused on expanding their student veteran enrollment and supporting student veterans to graduation and beyond. To date, members of the community have participated in annual data collections, set goals related to increasing access and success for veterans, and shared best practices at both in-person and virtual convenings.

To guide senior leaders at the beginning stages of this work, this brief first highlights some of the primary motivations for enrolling student veterans. Specifically, we provide data to illustrate that student veterans not only enhance campus diversity and enrich academic discourse, but also perform well in the classroom, arrive on campus with ample financial support, and remain engaged members of the community after graduation. 

Then, we outline four key practices, along with institutional examples, for senior leaders looking to build support for student veteran enrollment:

  • Define commitments and integrate them into a comprehensive strategy for diversity.
  • Identify and charge key stakeholders to champion and enact strategy.
  • Engage faculty, staff, students, and alumni to garner buy-in.
  • Communicate explicit commitments to prospective student veterans.

Together, these motivations and practices serve as a starting point for institutions looking to expand their student veteran enrollments. Future briefs in this series will cover other important components of building a veterans program, including best practices for recruiting and enrolling student veterans, financing a veterans program, and supporting student veterans through graduation and beyond. We look forward to continuing to support interested institutions in their efforts to enroll, support, and graduate student veterans.