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Study indicates half of G.I. Bill recipients graduate

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A new report found that slightly more than half of military-veteran students receiving GI Bill college benefits since 2009 have graduated, a little fewer than traditional students and better than other nontraditional students.

The study showed that 51.7 percent of student veterans earned a postsecondary degree or certificate. In comparison, 56 percent for traditional students and 43 percent for their nontraditional peers hit similar goals, according to figures found in other research.

Hundreds of military-affiliated students at north country schools use their GI Bill benefits for themselves or a family member.

The study, announced Monday, was completed by the Student Veterans of America, an advocacy group, with help from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Student Clearinghouse. Experts on veteran issues say it’s the most comprehensive study to date on the subject — how vets are performing under a GI Bill program that has spent about $35 billion since 2009.

“Americans have invested substantial dollars in giving our veterans an opportunity to further their education and this report shows many positive signs that they are doing just that,” SVA president Wayne Robinson said. “The majority of student veterans accessing their GI Bill benefits are completing degrees and showing unparalleled determination to do so, despite many unique barriers.”

The benefit can be used by a veteran or a member of the immediate family — and more than a million people have used it so far. The benefit pays all tuition and fees for an in-state student at a public university, $1,000 annually for books and supplies, and a housing allowance generally the same as an Army sergeant with dependents would get from the Defense Department. This year, the average monthly payment was $1,430.

At Jefferson Community College, 393 veterans are using the benefit this spring semester. There were 378 using the benefit last fall. These totals do not include military family members and active-duty, Guard and Reserve service members also attending college on the GI Bill.

Mariya E. Clemons, a financial counselor who certifies the eligibility of veteran students, said although service retirees have some characteristics similar to those of other nontraditional students, their experience sets them apart.

“It’s an advantage,” she said.

SUNY Canton currently has 126 beneficiary students, while SUNY Potsdam has 68. School officials said they are tracking the success of GI Bill students. Clarkson University, Potsdam, has 48 students using the benefit, and there are 14 beneficiary students at St. Lawrence University, Canton.

The study results came after the review of more than 1 million student records. The group described the graduation rates as strong considering the challenges many student veterans face, like having service-related disabilities.

The group said the top degree fields for veteran students were business, social sciences, homeland security, law enforcement and firefighting and computer and information sciences.

The full report can be read at http://wdt.me/EHqWdJ.

The Associated Press and Times staff writer Gordon Block contributed to this report.

Student Veterans of America report
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