Why should colleges recruit veterans to their campuses?

Maybe because they’re good for business, according to panelists who presented the findings of a recent research brief at the Student Veterans of America National Conference in San Antonio Thursday.

“It is clear that student veterans contribute in meaningful and long-lasting ways, both while they are on campus and after they graduate,” according to the brief, released last June by SVA in partnership with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University.

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SVA’s Chris Cate, joined by Rosalinda Maury and Nick Armstrong of IVMF, presented their research during the session, “The Business Case for Student Veterans College Recruitment,” laying out business-savvy reasons why schools should get former service members to their campuses.

1. Financial aid

Student veterans bring economic benefits to colleges through education benefits such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which covers tuition and fees at a public school’s in-state tuition rate, as well as the supplementary Yellow Ribbon program. As of May 2017, the Post-9/11 GI Bill has paid $75 billion in tuition, fees and stipends for books and housing, according to the researchers’ findings.

2. Diversity

This doesn’t just mean racial or ethnic diversity but also diversity of thought and experience, which contributes to an enriched learning experience that ultimately strengthens the student body, the researchers argue. They found that when compared to nonveteran students, veterans in college are more likely to be older, be the first in their families to go to college, have families themselves and have a disability.

3. Academic performance

When it comes to academics, student veterans have a higher average GPA than traditional students – 3.34 compared to 2.94 – and also complete college at a higher rate than other adult learners who entered college at age 25 or older, according to an SVA study released last year.

“Academic performance provides evidence on student veterans' academic achievement and ability to handle the rigors of college coursework,” Maury said in an email. “This directly counters concerns and arguments about student veterans’ ability to succeed in college.”

4. Post-education outcomes

Also contrary to popular belief, Maury said, “veterans have consistently outperformed nonveteran members within the labor force on both higher earnings and similar, or even slightly lower, unemployment rates.”

According to information the researchers pulled from the Census Bureau and Labor Department, veterans with bachelor’s degrees earn around $84,000 anually, and veterans with more than a bachelor’s degree earn slightly more than $129,000. In both cases, these earnings are higher when compared with veterans’ civilian counterparts.

5. Post-education commitment

Those higher earnings could come in handy for schools, as the researchers found student veterans remain connected to their alma maters.

“In short, military culture strengthens integrity and responsibility,” the research brief said. “Additional studies consistently support findings that service members sustain these characteristics across civilian settings, including academic institutions. Consequently, military experience engenders greater loyalty and commitment to one’s education as well as one’s affiliated academic institution.”