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Student veterans returning to a community college: Understanding their transitions

Dissertation
Author: Corey Bradford Rumann
Abstract:
Higher education and the military have been linked throughout history in the United States. Now, with the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq the higher education community is beginning to realize again the importance of understanding student veterans' transition experiences into college and providing appropriate support programs. However, the experiences of war veterans making the transition from servicemember to college student are not clearly understood. Consequently, community colleges and other institutions of higher education may not possess the information necessary to assist these students effectively. The purpose of this phenomenological, qualitative research study was to explore the nature of the transition experiences of student war veterans who had re-enrolled in a community college following military deployments. Using Schlossberg's Theory of Transition (Goodman, Schlossberg, & Anderson, 2006) as the theoretical framework and a three-interview series (Seidman, 2006) as the primary method of data collection, four themes characterized participants' transition experiences: (a) negotiating the transition, (b) interactions and connections with others, (c) increased maturity and changes in perspective, and (d) re-situating and negotiating identities. These findings could be used to help community colleges and other institutions of higher education to understand more clearly the experiences of student veterans. They could also help to inform student affairs professionals, administrators, and faculty as they make policy and programming decisions related to student veteran populations.

TABLE OF CONTENTS LIST OF TABLES ...................................................................................................v

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ................................................................................... vi

ABSTRACT ........................................................................................................... ix

CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION ............................................................................1 Problem ...........................................................................................................3 Purpose ............................................................................................................3 Research Question ..........................................................................................3 Theoretical Framework ...................................................................................4 Significance of Study ......................................................................................4 Definition of Key Terms .................................................................................5 Summary .........................................................................................................6

CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW .................................................................8 Veterans Coming to College ...........................................................................8 Student Veteran Outcomes: Nature of the Transition ...................................19 Transition Theory..........................................................................................26 Community Colleges ....................................................................................33 Summary .......................................................................................................35

CHAPTER 3. METHODOLOGY, METHODS, AND DESIGN..........................37 Researcher‘s Role .........................................................................................39 Research Sites and Selection of Participants ................................................41 Data Collection .............................................................................................47 Data Analysis ...............................................................................................52 Trustworthiness .............................................................................................54 Credibility ............................................................................................55 Transferability ......................................................................................58 Dependability .......................................................................................59 Confirmability ......................................................................................59 Ethical Issues and Considerations .................................................................60 Delimitations .................................................................................................62 Limitations ....................................................................................................62 Pilot Study .....................................................................................................63

CHAPTER 4. FINDINGS ......................................................................................64 Participant Profiles ........................................................................................64 Jeff........................................................................................................65 Frank ....................................................................................................67 Toby .....................................................................................................70 Josh ......................................................................................................74 Tanya....................................................................................................78

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Matt ......................................................................................................81 Summary of Participants ......................................................................86 Themes ..........................................................................................................87 Negotiating the Transition: A Shift in Environments ..........................88 Returning Home ..........................................................................88 A Change in Environments .........................................................91 Military Mindset versus Civilian Mindset ..................................93 Returning to College ..................................................................94 Military Mindset versus Academic Mindset ...............................98 Military Environment versus College Environment ...................99 Interactions and Connections with Others .........................................100 Family .......................................................................................101 Military Peers ............................................................................103 Civilians ....................................................................................109 Veterans Affairs Certifying Official .........................................118 Faculty.......................................................................................122 College Peers ............................................................................125 Purpose: Increased Maturity and Changes in Perspective .................128 Increased Focus and Heightened Maturity ...............................129 Changes in Perspective .............................................................132 Re-situating and Negotiating Identities .............................................137 Summary ............................................................................................146

CHAPTER 5. CONCLUSIONS, LIMITATIONS, ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS, IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND RESEARCHER REFLEXIVITY ...........147 Conclusions ........................................................................................147 Situation ....................................................................................149 Support ......................................................................................154 Self ............................................................................................165 Strategies ...................................................................................169 The Transition Process ..............................................................173 Limitations .........................................................................................174 Ethical Considerations .......................................................................176 Implications for Practice ....................................................................177 Recommendations for Future Research .............................................181 Researcher Reflexivity .......................................................................183

REFERENCES ...........................................................................................186

APPENDIX A. INFORMED CONSENT DOCUMENT ...........................198

APPENDIX B. INTERVIEW PROTOCOL ...............................................201

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LIST OF TABLES Table 1. Participant Information………………………………………………...43

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS There are so many people who have played a role in my success through this experience that it would be impossible to acknowledge all of them here. It is my hope that through my interactions with each and every one you that you know how much I appreciate you. First, I want to acknowledge the six student veterans who were willing to share their experiences with me for this study. Thank you so much for your time and dedication and thank you for your military service. To my partner and best friend, Stephanie, thank you for your unconditional love and support throughout the final phases of this endeavor. Words cannot explain how much I needed and appreciated your patience, care, advice, and willingness to listen when I needed to vent. Also, thank you for helping and encouraging me to celebrate my successes. I wish to acknowledge my extended family members for their love and support throughout my life: Uncle Ed, Aunt Camille, Uncle Gene, Aunt Marcia, Erin, Jessica, Sara, and my grandparents Frank and Maree Spurr, Ceril Rumann, and May Gardiner. Also, to my nearest and dearest lifelong friends Kevin, Jennifer, Marissa, and McKinley Shunn; Shawn Murphy; and Nici Griffith-Hefela thank you for you friendship and continued support. And, finally, a special thanks to Sadie. Our long walks together made the difficult times bearable. You were always willing to listen and for that I am forever grateful. To my other brothers, Terry (a.k.a. my twin) and Vijay, I think you know our friendship goes well beyond this doctoral program. I cannot imagine what this journey would have been like without the two of you. Thankfully, I never had to know. I also

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wish to acknowledge my other cohort members: Penny Rice, Anthony Jones, Craig Zywicki, and Kris Meyers for their constant support and friendship. And, to Elizabeth Cox a special thanks for your support and friendship. I would like to thank my major professor, Dr. Flo Hamrick, for her kindness and care throughout this entire process. You have truly been one of the most influential people in my life. Thank you so much for your uncanny ability to know what I needed to hear and challenging me to trust myself while giving me the freedom to make my own choices. I would also like to thank my program of study committee members (past and present) for their dedication and willingness to serve on my committee: Dr. Lori Patton, Dr. Robyn Cooper, Dr. Megan Murphy, Dr. Roger Smith, Dr. John Schuh, and Dr. Steve Porter. A special thanks to Dr. Lori Patton and Dr. Robyn Cooper for the many roles you played outside of my committee as a mentor, teacher, and friend. To all of my friends, colleagues, and peers in the program—way too many to thank here—I cannot tell you how much your words of encouragement and support have helped me during this journey. From kind words on the floor to long talks at the LU or at Friday night meetings so many of you were there for me during challenging times or to help me celebrate my successes and for that I am very thankful. Also, a special word of appreciation to Chris Nelson for your support and friendship that went far beyond simply editing my work. In addition, I would like to acknowledge all the ELPS staff and faculty for all of your support and words of encouragement. I am eternally grateful to Judy Weiland (Go Pack Go!) and Marjorie Smith for their friendship and for taking care of so many of the details. I will miss our long talks and laughs together but hope you know you will always

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be in my thoughts. A special thanks to Dr. Barb Licklider, Dr. Ryan Gildersleeve, Dr. Mimi Benjamin, and Dr. Mack Shelley for your sound advice and helping me grow as a person, a teacher, and a scholar. Also, I wish to acknowledge faculty members and colleagues from my time at the University of Wyoming Dr. Brenda Freeman, Dr. Ken Coll, and Dr. Mary Alice Bruce for their guidance and mentorship.

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ABSTRACT Higher education and the military have been linked throughout history in the United States. Now, with the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq the higher education community is beginning to realize again the importance of understanding student veterans‘ transition experiences into college and providing appropriate support programs. However, the experiences of war veterans making the transition from servicemember to college student are not clearly understood. Consequently, community colleges and other institutions of higher education may not possess the information necessary to assist these students effectively. The purpose of this phenomenological, qualitative research study was to explore the nature of the transition experiences of student war veterans who had re-enrolled in a community college following military deployments. Using Schlossberg‘s Theory of Transition (Goodman, Schlossberg, & Anderson, 2006) as the theoretical framework and a three-interview series (Seidman, 2006) as the primary method of data collection, four themes characterized participants‘ transition experiences: (a) negotiating the transition, (b) interactions and connections with others, (c) increased maturity and changes in perspective, and (d) re-situating and negotiating identities. These findings could be used to help community colleges and other institutions of higher education to understand more clearly the experiences of student veterans. They could also help to inform student affairs professionals, administrators, and faculty as they make policy and programming decisions related to student veteran populations.

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CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Higher education and the military have been formally linked since the Morrill Act of 1862 which mandated that land grant institutions of higher education had to offer military training as part of their curriculum (Abrams, 1989; Neiberg, 2000). This relationship was further solidified by establishment of Reserve Officers‘ Training Corps (ROTC) programs at colleges and universities, wherein college students received military leadership training (leading to commission as an officer) while simultaneously enrolled in college courses (Abrams, 1989; Neiberg, 2000). With the introduction of the Servicemen‘s Readjustment Act of 1944 (popularly known as the GI Bill) after World War II, many veterans took advantage of the educational benefits it provided, and entered or returned to college (Olson, 1973). Correspondingly, institutions of higher education began to consider institutional preparedness for the entering student veteran population. While it remains clear that military and educational institutions provided formal opportunities for servicemember education, there exists today only a small body of information concerning the challenges, successes, and adjustments of war veterans through the years, with respect to their transitions into college following military service. Such transitions include servicemembers who enrolled in institutions of higher learning for the first time, as well as those whose military obligations during times of conflict interrupted or delayed their collegiate pursuits. Contemporary U. S. military operations also affect colleges, universities and students, but in slightly different ways. In previous wars, most active duty servicemembers were drawn from full-time military ranks. However, current military

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forces in Afghanistan and Iraq are disproportionately staffed with National Guard and Reserve personnel to supplement full-time military personnel. Such Guard and Reserve involvement is unprecedented since the Korean War, and the current levels of reliance on Reserve troops has not occurred since World War II (Doubler & Listman, 2007). As of March 8, 2010 138, 217 National Guard and Military Reserve personnel were currently activated as part of Operations Noble Eagle, Iraqi Freedom, and Enduring Freedom, with 620,983 having served to date (i.e., between September 2001 and March 2010) (U. S. Department of Defense, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Public Affairs, 2010). For a number of current Guard and Reserve servicemembers, one of the primary motivations for joining the armed services was the educational benefits that accompanied their enlistments (Farrell, 2005). Enrolled students who were activated and deployed had to interrupt their academic pursuits. Now, increasing numbers of student veterans are returning to college, and the higher education community is beginning to realize again the importance of understanding the war veterans‘ transition experiences into college, and providing appropriate support programs. More and more institutions are beginning to address this issue through programs and initiatives (Cook & Kim, 2009; Quillen-Armstrong, 2007; Stringer, 2007; Zdechlik, 2005). More attention is paid to college student war veterans who are returning from duty in Iraq (and Kuwait) and Afghanistan; however, the experiences of each war veteran making the transition from servicemember to college student are not clearly understood. To date, only three research studies have explored this transition experience (Bauman, 2009; DiRamio, Ackerman, & Mitchell, 2008;

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Rumann & Hamrick, in press), and none of them focused on community college setting and students. Problem The transition experiences of military service personnel in the National Guard or Reserves who are re-enrolling at community colleges following military war zone deployments within the past seven years have not been closely investigated and are not well understood. Consequently, community colleges and other institutions of higher education may not possess the information necessary to assist these students effectively. More research will broaden the knowledge base in this area, and ultimately inform effective institutional practice and policy making. Purpose The purpose of this phenomenological, qualitative research study was to explore the nature of the transition experiences of National Guard or Military Reserve student war veterans who had re-enrolled in a community college following deployments to Afghanistan, Kuwait, and/or Iraq within the last seven years. Research Question This study was guided by the following research question: What are the transitional experiences of student war veterans re-enrolling at a community college and resuming their college student roles and lives?

Data were collected to answer this question through qualitative research methods, including a three interview series of semi-structured interviews (Seidman, 2006) with, and observations of, participants who returned to a community college following a military war zone deployment. These data were then analyzed using open and closed coding processes in order to identify thematic findings (Esterberg, 2002).

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Theoretical Framework I approached this study from an interpretive theoretical perspective grounded in the epistemology of social constructionism. Social constructionism affirms that people construct meaning through their interactions with the world, while recognizing the influence culture has on those constructions (Crotty, 1998). Using a constructionist foundation and interpretive theoretical framework, I selected a phenomenological perspective in order to describe the transitions from war veteran to college student, as informed by the participants‘ unique experiences of the phenomenon (Merriam, 2002). Schlossberg‘s theory of adult transition served as the primary framework for this research study. This theoretical model characterizes the transition experience as a process of moving ―in,‖ ―through,‖ and ―out‖ of a major transition, with reference to four factors that help people cope with transitions: situation, self, support and strategies (the 4 S‘s) (Goodman, Schlossberg, & Anderson, 2006). Data were collected and analyzed in light of this theoretical framework. Significance of the Study The findings of this study can be used to inform community college faculty, staff, administrators and the higher education community in general about the transition experiences of veterans returning to a community college. With this knowledge, education professionals can be better prepared to support these students upon their return. Furthermore, the findings of this study can assist college and university administrators with developing policies, programs and procedures focused on this student population. Finally, the results of this study will inform policy makers about policy developments that could support and ease the transitions of returning student war veterans.

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Definition of Key Terms National Guard and Reserves —National Guard and Reserves forces are comprised of servicemembers who serve part-time in the military, and typically attend training one weekend a month and two weeks a year, except when they are activated and/or deployed at times of state or national crises or wartime. Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) —Refers to ongoing U. S. military operations, principally in Afghanistan, which began in October 2001 (Doubler & Listman, 2007). Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) —Refers to ongoing U. S. military operations in Iraq, which began in March, 2003 (Kapp, 2005). Operation Noble Eagle (ONE) —The general name given to military operations since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 (Kapp, 2005). Student veterans —Student veterans are any college students who have served as active duty servicemembers in a war zone as a result of a military deployment, and who have now re-enrolled in college. More specifically, for the purposes of this study, the focus will be primarily on student veterans who have served either in Operation Enduring Freedom or Iraqi Freedom through National Guard or Reserve service. Transition —Goodman et al. (2006) defined a transition as ―any event, or non-event, that results in changed relationships, routines, assumptions, and roles‖ (p. 33) which can be either anticipated, unanticipated, or a non-event. Transitions can have both positive and negative effects on a person‘s life (Schlossberg, Lynch, & Chickering, 1989). Veterans Affairs Certifying Official (VACO) —For the purposes of this study, the Veterans Affairs Certifying Official is the student affairs staff member responsible for certifying student veterans enrollments at their institutions so the student veteran is

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eligible to receive GI Bill funding for college. These individuals also serve as liaisons between the student veteran and the Department of Veteran Affairs and assist them with the process of receiving funding. Military acronyms The following are military acronyms used by participants in the study during data collection and may be referred to in this study: AAFES —Army and Air Force Exchange Service BX —Common name for a type of retail store operating on military installations (Base Exchange on Air Force bases) CSH —Combat Support Hospital (pronounced ―cash‖) ETS —Expiration Term of Service FOB —Forward Operating Base IED —Improvised Explosive Device KIA —Killed In Action MOS —Military Occupational Specialty PX —Post Exchange VBID —Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device Summary This study explores the experiences of war veterans transitioning from a military war zone deployment back into a community college environment. The findings of the study inform education professionals and other college administrators, faculty members and policy makers about the collegiate transition experiences and needs of this unique, and growing, student population.

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Chapter 2 contains a review of literature of historical perspectives of the effects of military actions on colleges and universities, and research on war veterans and their post- war college experiences. It also discusses the lack of empirical work focused on contemporary student veterans‘ transition experiences. The chapter concludes with a description of Schlossberg‘s transition theory, followed by a brief discussion of community colleges as an appropriate setting for this study of life transitions. Chapter 3 presents the methodology, theoretical frameworks, and methods for the study, as well as ethical issues and considerations—including my role as the researcher. The chapter concludes with delimitations and limitations of the study, and a short description of an earlier pilot study. Chapter 4 presents participant profiles followed by a description of the four thematic findings that emerged from the data analysis. Finally, chapter 5 discusses conclusions, limitations, and ethical issues related to the study. The chapter also presents implications and recommendations for future research and implications for practice.

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CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW The literature framework for this study involves four topical areas: (a) veterans coming to college, (b) veteran students‘ outcomes and the nature of the transition coming to college, (c) transition theory and, briefly, (d) community colleges. First, I present student veteran profiles throughout the years, and summarize the literature related to transition and adjustment experiences of student veterans. These historical perspectives provide overviews of a number of key topics, such as how returning veterans have impacted higher education, how colleges and universities have responded to the needs of past and current veterans, as well as issues related to veterans‘ college adjustment. I then detail theories that could be used to understand veterans‘ transitional experiences— especially with such experiences as grief and loss. The chapter ends with a brief discussion of how community colleges, with their collective history of serving adult learners, generally are not only well-positioned institutionally to assist student veterans in transitioning to college, but also specifically provided an appropriate setting for this study. Veterans Coming to College Higher education enrollments grew considerably between World War I and World War II. Post-World War II enrollment growth can be attributed primarily to student veterans entering college (Altbach, 2005). The Servicemen‘s Readjustment Act of 1944 (i.e., the GI Bill) provided educational funding for veterans enrolling in college after their military service. Subsequently, veterans enrolled in college in unprecedented numbers, and nearly overwhelmed U. S. colleges and universities (Altbach, 2005; Olson, 1973,

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1974). The GI Bill also made college education possible for veterans who otherwise might not have had that opportunity (Olson, 1973). This influx of student veterans presented colleges and universities not only with massive increases in student enrollments, but also with a new group of students who possessed needs, desires, and characteristics decidedly different from non-veteran students (Clark, 1998). College administrators and educators of the time were concerned that many veterans would enter college underprepared academically, while other veterans would simply tap their educational benefits without pursuing a college degree, thus lowering academic standards at colleges and universities, and creating unnecessary burden for colleges and universities (Olson, 1973, 1974). These concerns were unfounded since, as the following sections discuss, student veterans came to be admired for their academic focus and successes (Olson, 1973). World War II veterans’ impact on higher education Following the passage of the original GI Bill, scholars and administrators proposed ways in which colleges and universities could support and accommodate student veterans (Kraines, 1945; McDonagh, 1947; Shaw, 1947; Titus, 1944; Toven, 1945; Washton, 1945; Williamson, 1944). Suggestions included flexible admission policies (Brown, 1945) and provision of college credit for military service (McDonagh, 1947; Toven, 1945; Williamson, 1944). Higher education scholars and administrators accurately predicted that veterans would want to take heavy class loads in order to make up for lost time, which would in turn put pressure on faculty members and the higher education system to offer more classes, or possibly lower academic standards in order to avoid clogging the system (McDonagh, 1947; Titus, 1944). Offering accelerated

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programs of study was a concern, because to do so would change the nature of the collegiate experience and put pressure on the higher education system to make quick organizational and policy changes—including implementing more liberal admission policies and allowing credit for military experience (Olson, 1974). Scholars also expected that World War II veterans would bring a higher level of maturity, compared to their non-veteran peers (Shaw, 1947; Titus, 1944; Washton, 1945), which generally turned out to be the case (Toven, 1945). However, veterans‘ increased maturity could create a gap between veterans and non-veteran students, and change the face of the student population, thus altering students‘ expectations of the higher education system (Titus, 1944; Williamson, 1944). Unlike many non-veteran students, veterans entered college with more focus and sense of purpose and no-nonsense attitudes; because they had set very specific goals that they wanted to meet (Kinzer, 1946). For example, veterans with families or plans to start a family felt as though college provided their best opportunity to prepare for careers to support their families; they wanted to finish college and get jobs as quickly as possible so they could get on with their lives (Kinzer, 1946). Korean and Vietnam War veterans’ impact on higher education The extent to which the GI Bill had an effect on higher education and the system itself has been debated (Clark, 1998; Olson, 1973; Stanley, 2003), but the student population at colleges and universities drastically changed with the flood of World War II veterans funded by the GI Bill. United States military veterans of the Korean War also were entitled to GI Bill educational benefits, but their presence on college campuses had a less dramatic effect on higher education, primarily because there were smaller numbers of Korean War veterans (Olson, 1973). ―Korean veterans…were a minority on campus

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and never exerted an influence that remotely approached that of their World War II counterparts‖ (Olson, 1973, p. 610). Statistics show this was also the case for Vietnam War veterans. World War II veterans ―comprised roughly 50 percent of the student population at universities… contrasted with a less than 10 percent average [of Vietnam War veterans] for the same universities in 1973‖ (Horan, 1990a, p. 3). Vietnam veterans also tended to maintain lower profiles because of widespread negative attitudes toward the war (Horan, 1990a). It is also possible that Korean and Vietnam veterans had less impact on higher education because colleges and universities already had an infrastructure in place, as a result of the earlier institutional changes that accommodated World War II veterans. Judging by the paucity of published reports, Korean War veterans raised few concerns for college campuses. Educational benefits were available to veterans of the Korean War through the Korean GI Bill (also known as, ―the Veterans‘ Readjustment Act‖), but these benefits were less generous than the first GI Bill (Olson, 1974), and carried more restrictions (Stanley, 2003). This change was due in part to the belief that the original GI Bill ―had been too generous,‖ more than adequately covering the costs of going to college (Olson, 1974). Also, at the time of the Korean War, college enrollment could be used as grounds to request a military service deferment (Stanley, 2003). Although requests did not guarantee deferments, the change likely impacted higher education enrollment by drawing men who could afford tuition into college and away from military service (Bound & Turner, 2002). On the other hand, for those who could not afford tuition, military service offered post-service educational benefits for college (Bound & Turner, 2002). College deferments were also available during the Vietnam

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War, and were used as strategies to delay conscription (Card & Lemieux, 2001). Card and Lemieux estimated that ―draft avoidance raised college attendance by 4 – 6 percentage points in the late 1960‘s‖ (p. 101). Like their Korean War veteran counterparts, smaller numbers of Vietnam War veterans enrolled in colleges and universities, compared to World War II veterans (Horan, 1990a; Horan, 1990b). Vietnam War veterans were entitled to educational financial assistance through the Vietnam GI Bill (the Veterans‘ Readjustment Benefits Act of 1966) (Olson, 1974). However, the Vietnam GI Bill provisions contained additional regulations and restrictions compared to previous versions of the GI Bill, and educational benefits were even more limited than benefits provided by the Korean GI Bill (Olson, 1974). These additional regulations and restrictions (plus the negative campus environment for veterans) made it more cumbersome to acquire educational funding, and led to frustration and discouragement for veterans seeking to enter college (Horan, 1990b). According to government reports, proportionately more Vietnam veterans used the GI Bill than Korean or World War II veterans, but Horan (1990b) argued that such estimations were unreliable, because not only were numbers counted in different ways, but also they did not take into account the numerous adjustment problems of Vietnam veterans that made it difficult, if not impossible, for them to enter or succeed in college. Links between higher education and the military While educational benefits have been provided to veterans by various iterations of GI Bills, it is important to note that higher education and the military have a long relationship in the U.S., and they continue to enjoy a strong relationship today. Higher education and the military have been linked as far back as the Morrill Land-Grant

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Colleges Act of 1862, which stipulated that land grant institutions offer military training—specifically, instruction in military tactic(s) (Abrams, 1989). In 1916, the National Defense Act established the Reserve Officers‘ Training Corps (ROTC), a program offered initially at land grant institutions and various military institutions. During the same time other institutions (outside of the land grant system) established Student Army Training Corps (SATC), which was funded by the federal government to provide on-campus military training for students (Neiberg, 2000; Thelin, 2004). The ROTC was later strengthened by the National Defense Act of 1920, and greater access to the program was made possible by establishment of ―ROTC units in any college or high school‖ (Abrams, p. 19). Currently, the ROTC program is designed to offer leadership and military training for college students in preparation for military service, and it provides cadets with educational financial benefits (GoArmy.com, n.d.a). The Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP) is a program within ROTC where student servicemembers are not only contracted to become officers in the U.S. military, but are also required simultaneously to be members of the National Guard or Reserves (Go Army.com, n.d.b). SMP members prepare to become military officers both through ROTC and direct military service, and they earn financial benefits to attend college (Go Army.com, n.d.b). Movement to an all-volunteer force From the American Civil War through the Vietnam War, conscription was used to secure adequate numbers of military personnel (Watson, 2007). However, the draft was discontinued in1972, and all branches of the U. S. military have now transitioned to an all-volunteer force (AVF) model (Griffith, 1997). AVF has had a tremendous influence

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on how the military operates and the way it recruits (Griffith, 1997). Declining numbers of individuals joining the military after the Cold War and the military‘s transition to an AVF prompted significant changes in military recruitment operations (Asch, Kilburn, & Klerman, 1999). Increased competition between the military and institutions of higher education to recruit college-bound young people added to the challenges faced by military recruiters (Asch et al., 1999; Asch & Loughran, 2004). The 1985 Montgomery GI Bill‘s (MGIB) recruitment incentives included providing full-time military personnel with educational benefits, in part to assist them with their transitions back to civilian life (Asch, Fair, & Kilburn, 2000). The MGIB was also the first to offer post-secondary educational benefits to National Guard members and Reservists; however, benefit levels varied depending on length of service (full-time vs. part-time military status) and whether or not a servicemember was deployed and had served in a military war zone (U. S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 2009a). Now with the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which was put into effect on August 1 st , 2009, educational benefits for student veterans have been expanded and are more generous overall (U. S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 2009b). These benefits more adequately cover the full costs of college education, including higher stipends for books and costs in addition to tuition for some student veterans depending on their particular situations and circumstances (U. S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 2009b). However, the post 9/11 GI Bill has not been without its critics (Eckstein, 2009), and there were a number of challenges certifying eligible student veterans and getting them their funds in a timely manner during the first semester it was enacted (Nelson, 2009; Stripling, 2009, 2010). For the purposes of this study, the most recent GI Bill being enacted is noteworthy,

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because its potential impact on student veterans‘ enrollment at colleges and universities (Moltz, 2009; Radford, 2009). Educational benefits for Guard and Reserve troops Historically, as a result of these GI Bill changes, service in the National Guard or Reserves and programs like ROTC (and the SMP option to combine the two), have made college attendance while serving in the military not only possible, but financially prudent (Asch & Loughran, 2004). This is even more the case with the new GI Bill, which offers potentially greater financial resources for military veterans who have served in a war zone to attend college (U. S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 2009b). In addition, during peacetime, the activations of National Guard and Reserve troops are minimized, and interruptions of college less likely. However, Guard and Reserve troops are subject to activation and deployment at times of state and national emergencies, civil unrest and natural disasters during peacetime. For example, National Guard troops were some of the first units that undertook Hurricane Katrina recovery and relief efforts (Doubler & Listman, 2007) and provided additional security at U.S. airports following the September 11, 2001 attacks (Kapp, 2005). Activation for domestic emergencies such as these can vary in duration, but cannot exceed 24 consecutive months (Army Reserve National Guard, 2005). On the other hand, when National Guard troops are needed to supplement full-time active duty forces (and a Presidential Reserve Call Up is enacted) for an operational mission, the length of active duty cannot exceed 270 consecutive days. Educational benefits are a tempting incentive for future and current college students to join the National Guard or Reserves. As noted earlier, Guard and Reserve members qualify for MGIB educational benefits that can be used while the

Full document contains 211 pages
Abstract: Higher education and the military have been linked throughout history in the United States. Now, with the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq the higher education community is beginning to realize again the importance of understanding student veterans' transition experiences into college and providing appropriate support programs. However, the experiences of war veterans making the transition from servicemember to college student are not clearly understood. Consequently, community colleges and other institutions of higher education may not possess the information necessary to assist these students effectively. The purpose of this phenomenological, qualitative research study was to explore the nature of the transition experiences of student war veterans who had re-enrolled in a community college following military deployments. Using Schlossberg's Theory of Transition (Goodman, Schlossberg, & Anderson, 2006) as the theoretical framework and a three-interview series (Seidman, 2006) as the primary method of data collection, four themes characterized participants' transition experiences: (a) negotiating the transition, (b) interactions and connections with others, (c) increased maturity and changes in perspective, and (d) re-situating and negotiating identities. These findings could be used to help community colleges and other institutions of higher education to understand more clearly the experiences of student veterans. They could also help to inform student affairs professionals, administrators, and faculty as they make policy and programming decisions related to student veteran populations.