College and university campuses around the country are reporting record enrollments of military veterans. Some of the current surge in enrollment is due to the new G.I. Bill, which awards vets a highly improved package of benefits over what they were entitled to previously. It's great that these individuals can now afford UCLA or Notre Dame if they qualify, but there may be a down side, too.
A recent article in the Washington Post by Emma Brown (registration) illustrates, perhaps inadvertently, how some of these students may be better off at a community college than at a resident university. According to the piece, many vets feel "older" than the incoming freshmen and have trouble relating to their classmates. Also, at larger institutions, the atmosphere seems chaotic and juvenile to those who are accustomed to military discipline and structure. The demographic profile of community college students and the (usually) smaller populations could be a closer approximation to what these vets may be searching for. The article reports that many veterans feel alienated and drop out before they really get started. Many studies have indicated that "engagement" by students is a key factor in their academic persistence.
One vet told the Post, "I'm not super-old, but I spent 27 months in Afghanistan, and I feel super-old because of that."
Student veterans are a singular population: They are older and more likely to be married than traditional students, and they are more likely, as reserve members, to be called up for deployment in the middle of the semester. Some return from combat needing help dealing with the emotional aftermath of war.