Assessing student success efforts for military students in a California community college

Two million U.S. military veterans live in California, a number that is expected to increase as military personnel in the Afghanistan (OEF) and Iraq (OIF) conflicts complete their service. Statewide statistics indicate that scores of returning veterans will be attending California community colleges. Many colleges have attempted to address the influx of returning veterans by developing appropriate support services for them. The college participating in this research established such services and is considered a model program. This exploratory mixed methods study evaluated those services and programs and assessed their effect on student success. This study was guided by Kuh, Kinzie, Schuh, and Whitt’s theoretical framework on student engagement and two research questions: (a) How do OEF/OIF student veterans at the participating college define “student success” and (b) To what extent and how do the OEF/OIF student veterans at the college attribute their success to the specialized veterans’ programs and services provided by the college? The study consisted of a review of the college’s veterans program, interviews of OEF/OIF military veterans at the school, and a survey of over 300 student veterans. The objective was to gain the veterans’ perspectives of and satisfaction with the services provided. The findings indicated that the veterans’ definition of success was based on grades, transfer opportunities, goal completion, and job obtainment. Additionally, most participants viewed the programs and services as contributing to their success. The findings will help college administrators to gain a more comprehensive understanding of student veterans’ classroom needs and to model these programs and services as they attempt to meet student veterans’ educational goals.