The SVA Census is an annual survey focused on collecting demographic data on student veterans and SVA alumni for use in discussions with policy makers, partners, and the public.
Informing Policymakers and the Public
There is no federal or national database that contains demographic information on student veterans. Federal databases include other military-related groups, such as ROTC, in their reporting or rely on data submitted through the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), however approximately one-third of student veterans do not complete and submit a FAFSA. This leads to an undersampling of student veterans and an oversampling of other student groups, resulting inaccurate reporting on student veterans. The Student Veterans of America® (SVA) Census is an annual survey collecting this vital demographic data on student veterans and SVA alumni for policy makers, SVA partners, and the public.
The SVA Census is conducted via a web survey sent out to SVA’s network, SVA chapters, veteran points of contact on college campuses (e.g. veteran certifying officials), and social media channels. The survey is in the field during the fall of every year.
Student veterans perform well in academic settings despite facing challenges that may affect their performance and ability to attend school. According to the 2019 SVA Census Survey, nearly two-in-three student veterans were enrolled as full-time students. On average, they took on 13-credit hours per semester. Although most veterans were enrolled as full-time students, they also faced unique challenges that could have an impact on their educational success. While serving in the military many veterans started families. Nearly half of student veterans had one or more children and nearly half were married.
Employment is another factor that can potentially impact a veteran’s ability to attend school. Approximately three-in-five student veterans are employed, and on average they work 35 hours per week. Although, student veterans face some unique challenges compared to the traditional student, they still excel academically. Four-in-five student veterans attend 4-year public and private institutions, and their cumulative average GPA is 3.39, on a 4.0 scale.
Having a disability can have an impact on many aspects of a student veteran’s life. It can affect academic performance, finances and employment. According to the 2019 SVA Census Survey, nearly two-in-three student veterans state they have a VA disability rating. Of the student veterans who shared that their disability impacts their academics, nearly one-in-four say the impact is little. One-in-ten say the impact is severe. Finances are often tied to employment, and a student veteran’s disability can affect both. Nearly three-in-four veterans with a disability stated that a disability effected their employment, however, only one-in-ten said the impact is severe.
Education debt is one of the main issues that factors into the decision to attend a college or university. Federal and private student loans can dissuade veterans from pursuing postsecondary education. Fortunately, nearly half of student veterans leave school with no educational debt. Veterans have access to many sources of financial aid and education benefits. According to the 2019 SVA Census Survey, approximately one-in-four student veterans use some form of GI Bill education benefit. A large number of veterans also file for federal student aid; seven-in-ten student veterans completed and submitted a 2018-2019 FAFSA. Not all student veterans graduate debt free, however. Of the individuals that graduated with educational debt, one-in-three graduate with debt ranging from $1 – $29,999.
Military Specialty and Academic Concentration
Military specialization does not always translate to the civilian world, and students often want to pursue a career different from their job in the military. Therefore, veterans tend to study and work in fields unrelated to their military specialty. According to the 2019 SVA Census Survey, nearly two-in-three student veteran’s major or field of study is not at all similar to their military specialization.
Their main motivations for taking courses may be one of the contributing factors to this split. One-in-four students veterans stated they enrolled in college or university classes in order to change their career, while one-in-five wanted to be more competitive in the job market. Job promotion and keeping their knowledge and skills fresh ranked among the lowest primary motivations for enrolling in classes. As with their academic concentrations, student veterans are often employed in fields that are unrelated to their military specialization. Roughly two-in-three student veterans say their current job is not at all similar to their former military specialty.