College presidents and student veteran leaders from 27 universities across the Chicago area visited National Louis University April 17 to attend an event titled “Student Veterans: Good Mission, Good Business.””
The event focused on how higher education serves veterans and their families, helping them transition to civilian life, preparing them for careers and connecting them to employment.
“There was tremendous energy in the room in support of veterans who are pursuing postsecondary learning and new careers,” said Becky Klein-Collins of CAEL.
David Hiller, president of the McCormick Foundation, and Nivine Megahed, Ph.D., National Louis University president, welcomed the dozens of veterans, university leaders and guests.
Jared Lyon, president of Student Veterans of America, told attendees that 200,000 veterans transition out of the military each year, and most seek civilian careers. About 115,000 have begun studies in higher education in each recent year, and last year saw 149,000 first-time GI Bill users.
Fifty-five percent of veterans surveyed said they planned to pursue a different career than their military specialization.
Lyon presented a business case for higher education institutions to welcome veterans to their campuses. He said veterans bring financial aid dollars, diversity, stronger-than-average academic performance, post-education performance (post-9/11 veterans with bachelors degrees earn an average of $71,000 per year)and post-education commitment in the form of strong alumni attachment.
One panel of speakers moderated by Becky Klein-Collins focused on the experiences of student veterans and the veterans affairs directors at universities who work with them. One student, Savannah Rucker of Lewis University, told of her experience when both she and her husband transitioned out of the military at the same time. Both enrolled in higher education, and among the many challenges they faced was the need to get quality child care for their two young children so they could attend classes and study. Rucker described how she had to take on a job to help with the costs, which ran to nearly $1,000 a month. That resonated with others and generated comments from attendees who had not been aware of the situation young parents face.
The event was sponsored by a number of university and foundation leaders, including:
- Michael Arimidis, Chancellor, University of Illinois at Chicago
- Daniel Diermeier, Provost, University of Chicago
- Jonathan Holloway, Provost, Northwestern University
- Jo Ann Rooney, President, Loyola University
- David Hiller, President, McCormick Foundation
- Nivine Megahed, President, National Louis University