The numbers are telling:
- About 4% of all college students are veterans. For the 2011-12 academic year, OSU has 1776 veterans enrolled (seriously… 1776). This is an increase of 13% from the previous year. This is easily the largest number of veterans enrolled in any school in Ohio. In fact, Mississippi State is the only public school that enrolls more. In addition, we have nearly 1000 employees who are veterans.
- These veterans account for nearly $17M in tuition, fees and books, and another $8.2M in room and board.
- Students using GI Bill benefits are up almost 900% from 2008, and up 40% from last year.
- 2.3M military members served in Iraq and Afghanistan since the beginning of those conflicts. 1.3M of these service members have re-entered civilian life. Ohio has about 900,000 veterans, and 13,300 are using GI Bill benefits. With the state’s GI Promise and other education benefits provided in Ohio, this number is undoubtedly going to increase in the next few years.
- Veterans are unemployed at rates between 3% and 11% greater than other members of our society. Many of these veterans, and in an increasing number, are choosing to take advantage of their education benefits to go back to school.
- The Post-9/11 GI Bill allows veterans to transfer their benefits to their dependents. Already, we have about 100 or so dependents enrolled using a transfer of benefits. The astounding number is that 400,000 pre-college age kids, from K-12 have had their parents benefits transferred to them so that they can use them when they head off to college.
- These students are by definition non-traditional OSU students, and hence require different levels of support than do most students here: half are married and half of these have children, 84% are over 24 years of age (50% are over 30), and 50% have at some point contemplated suicide.
- And the saddest number of all of these: in 1991 we established a veterans service office at OSU, with 1 FTE employee. By 2001, we had increased this number to 1.75 FTE. These <2 employees are responsible for processing all of the paperwork, and meeting all other needs of this dramatically increasing student body.
It’s time that our University responds to this special population, and provides a level of service that is consistent with the commitment they have shown to us.