Even though veterans are more likely to earn a certificate or degree than adult learners and have higher GPAs compared to traditional students, many do not attend institutions that would give them the greatest chance of succeeding. Currently, only 10 percent of veterans using GI bill benefits attend institutions with graduation rates above 70 percent, compared to 21 percent of the general student population. Addressing this undermatching would serve not only the student veterans, but also higher education institutions and the nation more broadly. 

However, there are complex challenges in the enrollment and support of veterans, both for schools and for student veterans themselves. To address these challenges, the College Board and Ithaka S+R began a campaign to support organizations in advancing opportunities for student veterans and service members. In November 2018, we hosted a convening focused on improving college access for veterans at high-graduation-rate colleges. 

Building on the momentum and ideas generated at the initial convening, we hosted a second convening at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore on February 10-11, 2020. This convening engaged 75 participants from high-graduation-rate institutions, military services, and veteran service organizations to discuss effective strategies for enrolling, supporting, and graduating student veterans.  

The goals of the convening were to (1) build and leverage community amongst organizations focused on improving opportunities for student veterans and service members; (2) share knowledge on effective practices that can improve recruitment, support, graduation, and career outcomes for student veterans; and (3) support and sustain organizational commitments to advance veterans’ college opportunity. During the full day meeting, participants worked together to share best practices and design solutions. They also discussed opportunities to engage and support student veterans and service members through targeted advising, holistic admissions, transfer policies, and optimized transition processes.  

Below, we share key takeaways and resources from the full day meeting. In addition, the agenda for the convening can be found here and a summary of the convening sessions can be found here.

Key Takeaways

  • Robert Caslen, former superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point and current president of University of South Carolina, gave a keynote speech encouraging institutions, organizations, veterans, and service members to commit to bridging the military-civilian divide. President Caslen also expressed that post-9/11 veterans are an honorable and talented cohort and that higher education can provide them with the support to become leaders in society just like World War II veterans who re-shaped 20th century America. (For the full keynote address, please see “Improving College Opportunity for Veterans“) 
  • Making commitments that are concrete and tangible can facilitate progress in improving access and success for student veterans. For example, the institutions that publicly announced commitments at the first convening provided updates, showing continued progress toward veterans access and success. (The 2020 updates on commitments are available here
  • Collaboration is an essential strategy that helps improve opportunities. Four-year institutions collaborating with military agencies, veteran service organizations, and community colleges is necessary to identifying and enrolling student veterans and service members. 
  • There is value in relaying information on college opportunities and information to service members earlier in their transition process. Veterans and service members are confronted with a wealth of educational options once they enter the armed services, and we want to ensure that they have the information to make the best choices for themselves. 
  • The leaders amongst the different institutions and organizations present at the convening have the lobbying power to promote better legislation and opportunities for student veterans and service members. In particular, it would be helpful to have better legislation on data tracking and reporting mandates for veterans and service members as well as regulation of predatory for-profit institutions. 
  • There is significant overlap and intersectionality between student veterans and other types of underrepresented and nontraditional students, including graduation rates, advising and support needs.Veterans and service members also have significant overlap with other underrepresented groups in terms of their educational priorities and decision-making. Institutions and organizations can draw on their expertise in supporting other non-traditional students when supporting student veterans and service members.


We also developed resources for the convening that provide an overview of the demographics of military connected students and student veterans, a landscape review of  recruitment and support efforts, and a review of federal benefit programs and state oversight as it relates to student veterans and military-connected students. Please see below for links to these resources: 


We would like to thank all participants for their engagement. In particular, we would like to thank Robert Caslen for his inspiring keynote address and David Phillips and Johns Hopkins University for hosting this event. We would also like to thank everyone who presented throughout the day, including representatives from the following institutions and organizations: California State University, Columbia University, Evocati, LLC, Georgetown University, Hiring Our Heroes, Lumina Foundation, Posse Veterans program, Ohio Dept. of Higher Education, Pathfinder, Service to School, Student Veterans of America, ScoutComms, Soldier for Life, Texas A&M University, The American Legion,  U.S. Marine Corps, University of Notre Dame, University of Chicago, Vassar College, Veterans Education Success, and the Warrior Scholar Project. Finally, we would like to thank our advisory group for its support and guidance.