The Veteran Success on Campus (VSOC) program is the least prevalent on college campuses, with less than 150 campuses with VSOC’s specific advantages for student veterans. These include a vocational counseling program run by a Veteran’s Administration (VA) staffer.
Another well-known group of colleges and universities are those that qualify as Yellow Ribbon schools. These institutions have committed to providing services or funding above and beyond those required by the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
The most prevalent program at schools is the Principles of Excellence, which can be found at over 10,000, or almost half, of all campuses that apply for PoE approval.
However the program that has touched the most number of student veterans is the Department of Defense Tuition Assistance program, which is approved for 87% of GI Bill recipients.
Some of these programs are directly tied to grants for student veterans, which is particularly meaningful as college costs soar and schools are cutting grants. Last year, schools doled out about $235 billion in grant-based aid, according to CollegeBoard, which is $7 billion less than the year before.
Student Veteran Support Programs by State
States By Number of Veterans
States By Proportion of Veterans
As these maps show, veterans are present in every state The low end of the dataset is over 30,402 vets, and that’s from tiny D.C. Larger states have even larger veteran populations: Texas and Florida are home to over 1.5 million veterans, while California is home to over 1.75 million.
Now, if veterans are living, working, and learning in every state, does each of those states have the support structure set up so those vets can succeed in their endeavors?
Unfortunately, the following map suggests that by one key metric, most states are not giving their veterans the help that they could be in college. Over half of states have no college that is part of the VITAL program.
The VA’s Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership (VITAL) program offers “seamless access to VA and campus-based resources, including transition counseling, mental health support, and assistance with accessing campus and VA programs and resources.”
Some of the specific services that VITAL programs provide at colleges and universities are:
- Evidence-based on-campus mental health counseling by a clinically licensed mental health provider, such as a psychologist or social worker.
- Facilitating on-campus veteran enrollment in VA programs.
- Working with veterans to create individualized treatment plans and education goals to facilitate their successful academic and social integration.
- Collaborating with existing on-campus mental health providers or counseling centers.
VITAL was created specifically to address many of the challenges veterans face when they enter college, often immediately after military service. So why isn’t it in more colleges and universities, especially those in states with high veteran populations? Florida, with its more than 1.5 million veterans, is perhaps the most glaring omission from the VITAL network.
This dearth of a key program in colleges and universities neutralizes — to a degree — two of the key benefits of on-campus learning for student veterans: building social skills with non-military peers and having a network of veterans to lean on, right on campus.
Student veterans may find that online programs don’t provide the same level of clinical, educational, and general support the right campus can offer. Western Governor’s University is the only VITAL-certified online institution. It’s also one of the largest online higher education providers in the country.
However, considering the lack of VITAL or equivalent programs on campuses across the country, online programs’ lack of student veteran services may be less relevant. If a veteran can’t access on-campus support, why not take advantage of the flexibility and self-pacing common among online programs instead?
Of course, this is only one data point related to how veterans feel they’re received and supported on campus. But, given VITAL’s specific mission, it’s an important data point.
The schools with the largest veteran populations are generally online schools. This is because it works for veterans who may need flexibility in their schedule or location. Certain service members can even begin earning college credits while still in the military.
Veterans who have finished their commitment to the military may want to work during school, or have other responsibilities to navigate. So, there are plenty of reasons — financial, familial, or personal — that make a more flexible schedule a priority.
But this flexibility that online colleges offer comes at the cost of on-campus clinical help. That said, the VA, which covers most medical expenses for veterans, has been accepting telemedicine claims since at least 2016. Now, with more healthcare providers offering telemedicine as an option, the combination of online school and online student veteran services is a real possibility.
However, depending on the individual’s physical and mental health needs, telemedicine may not be the best choice, or even an option at all. In those cases, an on-campus college with a strong VITAL program or other veteran support services may be the best choice.
The VITAL programs and other college-affiliated veterans groups also bring to the table the likelihood of meeting other student veterans, which can often form a network of informal support.
How Can Student Veterans Make the Best Education and Career Choices?
Student veterans may have to decide between the flexibility of online colleges or the stronger support networks of on-campus schools. Luckily, there are options in both groups that lead to strong salary outcomes. If you’re a veteran intending to go to college, do your research on careers that are in demand and align with your interests and skills. Then, it’s a good idea to look at fields of study that can lead to those careers. All of those resources are available in our career guides.
You can also utilize the Salary Scores, a product of our team of data experts’ analyses, to easily compare colleges by alumni salary.
So, what do you want to do now that you’ve served your country? What kind of degree, or what will you need to know or study to be able to accomplish those post-military goals? You’ve done your duty. Now do your research and make sure your next move is the best move.