During the 2012 State of the Union Address, President Obama announced the withdrawal of 200,000 troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. It is estimated that about 25% of these troops will leave the military. These troops will be returning to the worst economy in 20 years. These young men and women will need better skills and more education to compete for jobs. It is the mission of the Supportive Education for the Returning Veteran (SERV) to ensure that the veterans who have an interest in attending a university or community college are successful.
While there is little data on GI graduations, what are available shows that the vast majority of GI Bill eligible veterans do not use their GI Bill. The Department of Education (DOE) did a study which showed that only 3% of all college veteran freshmen who start at a 4 year college get their 4year degree. This same study suggests that only 6% even apply for educational benefits. The Department of Veterans Affair's statistics indicate that from 2001-2009 even with fully paid tuition and a housing allowance, the veteran’s increase in the pursuit of higher education is still less that the civilian population (24%).
The SERV Program has been able to increase the number of veterans returning to school by participating in the military's transition process. We contact veterans while that are still in the service and speak with spouses and parents about the need for higher education. The SERV Program is most proud of it's retention rate. The national average retention rate for veterans is about 18% while at Cleveland State University SERV's retention rate was 72% 2 percentage points higher that the nation average for the general university student population.