Student veterans have been overlooked as a unique student population at institutions of higher learning. Moreover, student affairs practitioners, faculty, staff, and peer students are largely unaware of the unique needs of student veterans. The purpose of this study was to build a base of research on the academic and social experiences of re-enrolling student veterans with the goals of better understanding the student veteran experience and discovering new avenues of support for this population.
The researcher conducted a qualitative study utilizing grounded theory methodology to answer the primary research question: how do student veterans manage college re-enrollment after deployment, training, or self-induced military absence? More specifically, the researcher investigated two secondary research questions:
* How do student veterans manage academic transition after re-enrolling in college?
* How do student veterans manage social transition after re-enrolling in college?
Schlossberg's (1984) theory of adult transitions was used as a theoretical framework to develop 10 interview questions. Fifteen student veterans served as the sample population (n=15); they were interviewed using semi-structured interview protocol. Additionally, two administrative staff members who worked closely with the student veteran population were interviewed. The researcher examined additional sources of data such as student veterans association Websites, institutional Websites pertaining to student veteran re-enrollment, the Montgomery G.I. Bill for Active Duty and Selective Reserve personnel, and documents from the Student Veterans of America to triangulate data.
Data were analyzed using microanalysis, open coding, axial coding, and selective coding procedures articulated by Strauss and Corbin (1990; 1998). The researcher maintained field notes and created memos which augmented the analysis of data and allowed the researcher to identify and articulate emerging concepts, categories, and themes. The researcher created a visual diagram consisting of five interrelated themes that explained how student veterans manage college re-enrollment: (a) military influence, (b) invisibility, (c) support, (d) campus culture, and (e) navigating re-enrollment.
The researcher found student veterans were more mature and academically focused because of their military experiences. Student veterans were less likely to seek academic support and more inclined to pursue social support in the form of associating with fellow veterans with whom they felt more comfortable. Support was not a key factor in student veterans' navigation of re-enrollment and student veterans tended to downplay or hide their veteran status from campus community members. Financial considerations and social implications were the most pronounced challenges student veterans faced after returning to college.