Since SVA’s founding in 2008, over one million veterans have returned home to pursue a degree using the GI Bill.
Before the end of World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, otherwise known as the G.I. Bill of Rights. After demobilizing, returning veterans flooded colleges and universities around the country. Not only did these student veterans face basic challenges associated with reintegrating into civilian life, but schools were unprepared for this influx of students, which lead to additional problems for veterans like severe housing shortages and lack of transitional assistance. Student veterans banded together, forming peer-to-peer support networks to overcome these challenges and earn their college degrees.
Through the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, veterans continued to transition to campus following their military service, albeit in smaller numbers. The revised Montgomery G.I. Bill was offered as a recruitment incentive for the all-volunteer force. Some of the local student veteran groups that formed on campuses after conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, like those at Northern Illinois University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, still exist today.
Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the U.S. launched Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq). As OEF and OIF veterans returned home to use GI Bill benefits, they found that their campuses did not provide adequate support services to assist student veterans as they worked towards their educational goals.
Lacking support, student veterans decided to organize on campuses across the country. These groups began to connect through social media with one another to spread best practices, share success stories, and support one another to further strengthen the student veteran community. In 2008, members from various chapters formalized this grassroots movement and Student Veterans of America was born at the very first NatCon in Chicago.
SVA was officially incorporated on January 23, 2008 to provide programs, resources, and support to the ever-evolving network of local student veteran organizations. Each of these independent groups joined the umbrella coalition as a chapter.
Concurrently, SVA and a number of Veteran Service Organizations were tirelessly advocating for an overhaul of the G.I. Bill to address the needs of the 21st Century student veteran. Six months after SVA’s founding, President George W. Bush the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill into law.
Since SVA’s founding in 2008, over one million veterans have returned home to pursue a postsecondary degree or certificate using VA education benefits. To meet this need, SVA’s presence at the local and national levels has grown to include over 1,500 chapters, numerous private and nonprofit partners, and an expanding list of impactful programs and services for student veterans, military-connected students, survivors, and others. SVA welcomed over 2,500 to its largest ever NatCon on January 3-5, 2020 in Los Angeles.