According to an article in the Daily Beast by Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Rodrigo Garcia, the original WWII-era GI Bill helped educate approximately 10 million veterans, including “14 Nobel Prize and 24 Pulitzer Prize winners, 3 presidents, a dozen senators, and 3 Supreme Court justices.” Now, as Chairman of the Board of Directors, Garcia is one of many members of Student Veterans of America (SVA) helping to provide the newest generation of veterans with “the resources, support, and advocacy needed to succeed in higher education” and go on to be forces of change in the society they promised to defend.
Colleges in the US are currently seeing the largest flood of student veterans since WWII. And, as was the case after WWII, campuses weren’t prepared for them. Although some colleges quickly adapted while others stubbornly refused to, student veterans realized that banding together was the best way to get their needs met, regardless of which type of campus they found themselves on. Founded in 2008, Student Veterans of America grew out of this desire to help this new wave of student veterans adjust to campus life and accomplish their educational goals. Through campus-based peer groups, partnerships with both private and nonprofit entities, and advocacy (topics include lobbying for in-state tuition rates for student veterans), SVA has become the leader – in just six years, the SVA has grown to include 950 chapters – in representing student veterans.
Student Veterans of America serves as an umbrella group, allowing campus veterans groups to also become chapters of the SVA. These chapters are then eligible for training, grants, and networking opportunities. Through their partnership programs, the SVA also provides scholarships (over $190,000 worth in 2014 – see below for more information on current scholarship opportunities), mentorships, employment, and benefits counseling to its chapter members. Key examples include SVA and Google sponsored resume writing workshops, grants from Home Depot to help build or improve campus vet centers, and the 1 Student Veteran program with the Veterans of Foreign Wars, which helps veterans who are having trouble accessing their GI Bill and other VA benefits break through the red tape. Additionally, SVA is building an alumni network and conducting key research on student veterans.
Today, SVA released the first set of results from the Million Records Project. The Project, completed in coordination with the VA and the National Student Clearing House and funded by grants from Google, The Kresge Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, and Raytheon, is the first comprehensive analysis of veterans in higher education. The results of the first phase of the Million Records Project, which included data on student veteran graduation rates (also called completion rates), highest degree attained, majors pursued, and time-to-completion rates, as well as how veteran students are comparing to their civilian counterparts, were presented by Student Veterans of America President and retired Command Sergeant Major D. Wayne Robinson at George Washington University and streamed live online. (If you missed it, SVA will be hosting a Twitter Townhall on the subject this Wednesday, 26 March.)
With over 1 million current Post-9/11 GI Bill recipients and another million military members expected to leave the service in the next five years, plus the spouses and children who may have transferred benefits, veterans and their dependents are, and will continue to be, a presence on college campuses for a long time to come. Organizations like Student Veterans of America are critical for helping these individuals succeed. To find out more about Student Veterans of America, visit their website.
Also, SVA currently has two scholarships available: the Disney-SVA Scholarship, for students pursuing a degree in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields (deadline 1 April) and the PNC-SVA “Serving with Integrity” Scholarship, for students majoring in finance, business, and related fields (deadline is 30 April).
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