According to Syracuse University’s D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families, approximately two million student veterans have been enrolled in post-secondary education institutions across the country since 2009: nearly every institution of higher education in the United States enrolls veterans.

In 2021, more than 800,000 student veterans received more than $10.5 billion in support. Federal funds made available from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) enable student veterans to pursue post-secondary study. The largest of the programs authorized to provide educational benefits for student veterans (including include a housing allowance and stipend for books and supplies) is the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which has provided support for more than 600,000 veterans and family members (American Council on Education Fact Sheet). Of these students, more than 5,000 are enrolled at Jesuit colleges and universities.

According to the Million Records Project, an initiative sponsored by Student Veterans of America, roughly 10% of student veterans enroll at private, non-profit institutions. Of all institutions serving veterans, the private nonprofit sector has had the highest student veteran graduation rate.

What else do we know about this population of students? Per the D’Aniello Institute, student veterans tend to be older and are most often first-generation, or the first in their family to attend college (62%). They are committed to their studies, tend to enroll full-time, and have achieved higher grade point averages than their non-veteran peers (43% of those using post-GI benefits earn a Bachelor’s degree). They may be more likely to have a disability, be married with dependents, and have work obligations.

Our Jesuit colleges and universities are proud to support the student veteran populations on their campuses. Many of our institutions have established offices to support student veterans and assist them as they transition to higher education. This support extends to the earliest stages of a veteran’s decision-making process and often offers prospective students a chance to seek guidance on their transition from military service to academic life.

All 27 U.S. Jesuit colleges and universities are Yellow Ribbon Schools. The Yellow Ribbon school program ensures that private school tuition remains within reach for student veterans through grants provided by the college or university and matched by the Department of Veterans Affairs, beyond the Post-9/11 GI benefit.

How does AJCU support student veterans? We work in concert with the Department of Veterans Affairs Administration, the U.S. House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees, and our higher education colleagues to ensure our student veterans have the opportunity to come to our institutions, choose their intended areas of study, and thrive.

AJCU participates in monthly stakeholder meetings with the VA Administration and has regular contact with key Congressional committees to share information from our institutions in hopes of establishing or amending programs so that they work for our nation’s student veterans. We worked with stakeholders representing student veterans and higher education to pass the “Ensuring the Best Schools for Veterans Act of 2022” that, in the words of its legislative champion, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), “removed roadblocks standing in the way of our veterans and families getting the quality education they deserve at colleges and universities across the country.”

This bipartisan, bicameral bill addressed problems identified by the higher education community and resulted in providing student veterans with increased access to more programs at institutions of higher education. This is one of many bills we have tracked and engaged on.

Student veterans contribute to the diversity and vibrancy of our campuses. They bring qualities of discipline, maturity, experience, and resilience to our classrooms, sharing their perspective and wisdom with their student colleagues. The contributions of student veterans are many, both to our nation and to our institutions. We are proud to be in their service as they have been in service to each of us.

By Jenny Smulson, Vice President of Government Relations, AJCU