Edmonds Military Wire: College education is NOT for our troops — or is it?

By Michael Schindler

For years there has been an urban myth that our military exploits the uneducated, that “they” want the young man or woman who doesn’t make the cut for college or who is at the “sail or jail” point of life.

Back during the showdown between Bush and Kerry, there was an uproar over Kerry’s controversial comment (of which he states was misconstrued) that one “get an education or get stuck in Iraq,” furthering support for the urban myth that college education is not for our troops. So what’s the truth? Is it or isn’t it?

While getting an education is desired from many service members and veterans, and encouraged by the military ( thus the Post 9/11 GI Bill), the latest data suggests that our current education system is failing our service members.

According to a report forwarded by the University of Colorado Denver, which cited the analysis by the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education and Labor and Pensions, among the approximately 800,000 military veterans now attending U.S. colleges, an estimated 88 percent drop out of school during their first year and only 3 percent graduate.

Why is this? Is it because they just can’t handle it and this new breed of transitioning veterans is too dumb and too overcome with PTSD that any bit of concentration is a task too great for them to handle?


Today’s service member is highly trained, highly skilled, dedicated, and capable of handling a dynamic environment. The challenge is the higher education environment. MSNBC interviewed Michael Dakduk, executive director of Student Veterans of America, a support network for ex-military college students, and found that “the vast, life-experience divide between war veterans and teens fresh out of high school – all now sharing the same classrooms – can make the scholastic transition awkward and arduous for ex-soldiers.”

The article goes on to say, “Mix in the fat gap of time between the vets’ high school days and their attempts to blend into college life and the reasons for the dropout rate become even more obvious.”

So perhaps we should be looking at how to change the learning environment on a much larger scale. While some universities do cater to those who have served, the methods aren’t widely adopted.

With a college degree being the standard now for an entry level position, we owe it to our men and women who have served to make this next mission of “education” one that has a successful outcome.

Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include  “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.”  He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.

  1. When sharing ideas on this we need to carefully distinguish between wishful thinking and our reality.

  2. what’s holding back ex-military students are the same things that don’t work well for any student: sitting in a chair being talked at is an inefficient way to learn anything. This has been known for a long time, but large institutions don’t change, they just become irrelevant.

    My guess is that the difference between ex-military students, and young people who have sat in desks being talked at their previous 12 years, is that the ex- military students have less patience with practices that don’t work well, because they’ve had to get stuff done. I would expect the same sort of impatience from non-military people who’ve had real jobs for several years and returned to undergrad college.

    The solution for ex-military is no different than the solution for any student: make learning more hands-on. Make projects, internships, and such, 80 percent, and classwork, 20 percent, rather than the other way around.

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