Helping veterans succeed in school

Mike Rose has a great post over at Inside Higher Ed about the kind of support we could and should be giving our veterans.  He talks about his experiences working with Vietnam era vets, work he discusses at length in Lives on the Boundary and goes on to make the case that our veterans today need the same kind of assistance if they are to succeed in school.

Comparing the experiences of veterans then and now, Rose says:

Our newest generation of veterans will be returning to a warmer welcome than those who served in Vietnam, but the kind of war they fought is similar, and their needs will be as great. By one count, over 34,000 are injured, some severely. Others are or will be torn apart by psychological trauma. And many others will experience terrible distress as they try to find their way with family and community, the economy and education.

He feels that a these vets need more help than most schools are giving them:

The key idea is to treat a complex educational issue in a comprehensive and integrated way. To respond adequately to educational needs, the program has to address psychological, social, and economic needs as well. And, hand in glove, some social and psychological problems – inability to concentrate, feelings of intellectual inadequacy – don’t fully manifest themselves unless one is in a classroom, immersed in English or math or poli sci.

He describes the many elements of the program he worked with and then says:

Rather than patriotic talk, I’d like to hear about programs that are comprehensive and address the multiple needs our troops have when they return home. Programs that provide knowledge and build skill. Programs that are thick with human contact. Programs that meet veterans where they are and provide structure and guidance that assist them toward a clear goal. Programs that build a community while leading these young men and women back to their own communities.

As a long-time fan of Mike Rose and of Lives on the Boundary, much of what Rose says is familiar to me.  What struck me, though, is how few people other than Rose are saying it.  Most schools seem interested in the tuition dollars from veterans, enlisted men and women and their families, but there doesn’t seem to be much recognition of the particular set of needs that they students bring to the university community.  My institution, for instance, is proud of its designation as a “Military Friendly School”.  But to achieve that designation, very little is required:

Criteria for making the “Military Friendly Schools” list included efforts to recruit and retain military and veteran students, results in recruiting military and veteran students and academic accreditations.

While we have excellent tutoring programs and work hard to help all students, I don’t see any real evidence of the kinds of things Rose says these particular students need if they are to be successful.

Read Rose’s post.  Like almost everything he writes, it is a great one!


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