dotEDU Episode 08: Setting Up Student Veterans for Success


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Aired on October 29​, 2019

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Seventy-five years since the GI Bill changed the face of higher education, college leaders are striving to learn more about how to serve the latest generation of student veterans. Jared Lyon, president and CEO of Student Veterans of America​, joins hosts Sarah Spreitzer and Jon Turk to talk about why student veterans are considered the “tip of the spear” for the upcoming wave of post-traditional students.

Later, Sarah and Jon discuss the latest developments in Congress’s reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.​​​

​​Episode Not​​es

Here are some of the links and references from this week’s show:

Conversation with Jared Lyon

Student Veterans of America

GI Bill
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

ACE Toolkit for Veteran Friendly Institutions​​

Post-interview chat on the Higher Education Act

Renewing the Higher Education Act ​

House Dems’ Vision for Higher Ed
Inside Higher Ed | Oct. 16, 2019​​​​​​


 Read this episode's transcript

Sarah Spreitzer [00:00:05] Hello and welcome to dotEDU, the podcast from the American Council on Education. I'm Sarah Spreitzer, director of government relations here at ACE, filling in this week for Jon Fansmith. I'm also here with my colleague, Jon Turk, associate director for research, who's filling in for Lorelle Espinosa. Hey, Jon.

Jon Turk [00:00:24] Hey, Sarah.

Sarah Spreitzer [00:00:26] Later, we're going to be talking with Jared Lyon from the Student Veterans of America. But first, Jon, how is your week going?

Jon Turk [00:00:33] So, my week has been going fantastic. I've spent two full days at the Department of Education talking all about IPEDS, so talking about new issues facing higher education and kind of what that means for the IPEDS collection. So, really important stuff and riveting.

Sarah Spreitzer [00:00:49] Wow, you do do a lot of work on IPEDS. I don't really get IPEDS. I don't really understand how to manipulate the data. So I'm glad to have you on the team to do that.

Jon Turk [00:00:59] You know, data. I love data. How about, gee, what's been going on around here?

Sarah Spreitzer [00:01:03] It has been a crazy week. So I feel like every single university is in town this week for some sort of advocacy visit.

Jon Turk [00:01:11] According to IPEDS, there's over 7,000 of them. Is there are 7,000?

Sarah Spreitzer [00:01:15] I think they are all here and they're all having receptions at night up on Capitol Hill. And of course, it's been crazy with all the impeachment stuff going on. So every time you go up to Capitol Hill, there's huge lines.

Jon Turk [00:01:27] And that stuff.

Sarah Spreitzer [00:01:28] Yeah, yeah, that stuff. So it's also actually really hard to get lawmakers to actually listen to what you're trying to say, you know, because of all the impeachment things going on. So it's been a little crazy. I feel like on the government relations side, we're kind of in a sprint until Thanksgiving. So they have to finish--.

Jon Turk [00:01:48] You guys are just reading through that little HEA bill, too, right?

Sarah Spreitzer [00:01:50] Yeah. Yeah. Over a thousand pages going to markup next week. We'll be talking a little bit about that later on. But yeah, just a tiny bill that we have to summarize, look at. Well, in just a minute, we'll be back with our guest. And we'll take a slight break.

Sarah Spreitzer [00:02:14] And we're back with Jared Lyon, the president and CEO of Student Veterans of America. Hi, Jared.

Jared Lyon [00:02:21] Hey, how are you? Thanks for having me.

Sarah Spreitzer [00:02:22] Well, thanks. Thanks for coming over. So the Student Veterans of America, your mission is to provide military veterans with the resources, support, and advocacy needed to succeed in higher education and following their graduation. Your vision is that all that all veterans will succeed in higher education, achieve your academic goals and gain meaningful employment. Obviously, I took that off your Web site. And you know, I've worked with Student Veterans of America in government relations previously. What I didn't know is that you also support a network of over 1,500 schools and over 700,000 student veterans. And that your group also funds scholarships and you're working to build alumni networks for student veterans. So I'm really excited to learn more about SVA because obviously I've only known it from the advocacy side. Did I kind of capture in the mission and vision statement what SVA does?

Jared Lyon [00:03:22] Yeah. You sure did. I mean, essentially, said another way, we're a nationwide student organization. It's just that we happen to be comprised of former military, we call them veterans or student veterans, as well as our family members, supporters and allies. And we support student veterans through our programs and services, as you've mentioned, in addition to our world-class research and then our advocacy work, which is being read alongside of you up at the Department of Education or on Capitol Hill, advocating mostly for the G.I. Bill.

Sarah Spreitzer [00:03:51] That's great. And you are the president/CEO. How did you get into this line of work?

Jared Lyon [00:03:58] Sure. So I served in the military myself. I actually enlisted on August 5th, 2001. So I had joined a peacetime military. It wasn't until I was in basic training that the events of September 11th happened and fundamentally changed the nature of not only my service, but the service for quite literally millions of women and men of my generation who volunteered to serve their country. Separated from active duty in 2005. Did a variety of thing: defense contracting, started a business. And then I actually, if you can believe it, I worked in Major League Baseball. And it's sort of apropos being here in Washington, D.C. I was in the front office for the Washington Nationals. So particularly excited with the outcome of...Up through game two right now.

Jon Turk [00:04:41] Were you able to stay up all night for the game last night?

Jared Lyon [00:04:44] I stayed up for most of it. I did. I did fall asleep as it was going. It was...

Jon Turk [00:04:49] I fell asleep at the bottom of the six. Yeah. I missed the 10 runs that were scored in between then.

Jared Lyon [00:04:54] I went a little beyond you, but it was looking pretty good. But then actually I wound up going to community college, sort of along the way of that route, mostly at nights and weekend classes. And then, in 2010, I went to Florida State as a transfer junior. So I was 28 years old when I got to campus in a sea of 40-something thousand undergraduate/graduate students at the university. And really to steal a term from the Navy, I started feeling a bit like a fish out of water. But the way that I came to this work very specifically was, when I was on campus, we started to put together something that we referred to as essentially our business plan or a strategy for how the university could be more veteran-inclusive. In that work, I kept getting a bit discouraged because, as I would talk to researchers and professors, I was always struck by the conversation where it would start essentially from the deficit model that, "Oh, hey, you work with student veterans must mean that you're doing work with remedial education or tutoring or these are disenfranchised population who are not equipped for college." And I was always taken aback by that. So I started to dive into some of the research and I became frustrated because a lot of it was more qualitative in nature and they were very small studies. And essentially I knew that the space lacked research. So this really started me on kind of a lifelong journey starting in 2010 to ensure that we had data to back up the narrative and sort of help counter people's perceptions of this generation of student veterans, because the data actually demonstrates that this is among the most successful student population in postsecondary education today.

Sarah Spreitzer [00:06:42] And how old is SVA?

Jared Lyon [00:06:44] Yeah, we were founded officially in 2008. The real story started about two years prior. In 2006, we had student veterans coming home like myself from Iraq and Afghanistan. They were coming back to school on something called the Montgomery GI Bill, which was designed as a peacetime benefit for service members. That said, this generation had been fighting really what has now become our nation's longest period of sustained combat and they were looking at maybe there could be a better way. To their benefit there are two U.S. senators at the time by the name of Jim Webb and Chuck Hagel, both of them Vietnam veterans themselves who were really looking at this, my generation, the post 9/11 generation as perhaps America's next greatest generation. And the way that you invest in them is the opportunity for an education after they take the uniform off. So really, SVA got its star as the grassroots advocacy effort to help mobilize student veterans around the nation in key U.S. districts to meet with their members of Congress and actually explain firsthand how our generation would benefit and really what we would contribute to society as an educated generation. If you can believe it, nearly two thirds of us that go back to school after we separate from active duty are just like myself: the first member of their family to go to college. The vast majority of us are first generation college students. And if you look at postsecondary education's efforts to try to open the aperture and opportunity for education for folks that have been left out, first generation students are a big population that we have a concern of. And we have a very high concentration of it at Student Veterans of America. So really, after the post 9/11 G.I. Bill passed, we got together for our first national conference in 2008, the snowy suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. And we decided to unite under one banner and we named ourselves Student Veterans of America. We were motivated by a key sentiment. It's often been misattributed to Thucydides. Turns out Thucydides never said this, but the nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools. This served as our ethos of yesterday's warriors: today's scholars who will become tomorrow's leaders. And that really has transformed our mission at Student Veterans of America to inspiring tomorrow's leaders.

Sarah Spreitzer [00:08:55] And I remember reading a quote from Senator Webb around that time, talking about how SVA was really crucial for that 9/11 post G.I. Bill. Can you talk a little bit about the differences between the needs for student veterans, kind of under the Montgomery G.I. Bill and then the post 9/11 G.I. Bill?

Jared Lyon [00:09:13] Yeah, absolutely. The Montgomery G.I. Bill was passed in the 80s. So our country made the decision that we would not have a draft after 1973 and so we shifted from a conscripted military to actually all volunteers. So my generation is all volunteers, which is the first time in American history that we've had that. To that notion, they were looking for different incentives for an all-volunteer force. So the Montgomery G.I. Bill, though generous, essentially got a requirement to it where service members will pay into it when they first start in the military. So you allocate a portion of your paycheck, it's $100 a month for your first 12 months while you're in. And then the government will wind up providing a benefit that is more than matched from that. The old Montgomery G.I. Bill would then pay you directly as the student and then you would pay your tuition and fees, your housing, etc. But the student veterans back in 2006, '07 and '08 that were working with Jim Webb and Chuck Hagel, they were actually looking back to the original G.I. Bill, the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944. This original G.I. Bill, when it provided for education for a new generation of nearly 16 million women and men returning home from fighting in Europe and the Pacific in World War 2, quite literally, that G.I. Bill was far more robust. It paid the university tuition and fees directly so that burden wasn't placed on the student. In addition, it provided for a living stipend. We call that basic allowance for housing today. But it also had things for your books, so a stipend for books. And if you were majoring in certain degree fields considered vital to national security, we would call them STEM for the most part today, there was actually extra provisions and extra time to finish those degrees to make sure that we do it. And the funny thing is that, that original G.I. Bill, had we not had it, we might not have had enough scientists, mathematicians and engineers to put the first person on the moon if it wasn't for those student veterans that went on to get those degrees.

Sarah Spreitzer [00:11:14] The post-Sputnik time.

Jared Lyon [00:11:16] You got it. And so the post 9/11 G.I. Bill is a lot more similar to the original G.I. Bill than the Montgomery, which is sort of something in between.

Jon Turk [00:11:26] So, Jared, you started off by talking about data and, if you caught the beginning, I love data. I love talking about data. Could you tell us a little bit more? Help us understand the current kind of landscape for veteran students and the military connect students in higher education. How many of them are there? Where they're going to school? What do they look like?

Jared Lyon [00:11:42] Absolutely. So if you look nationwide, there's just over a million veterans in postsecondary education utilizing benefits. The reason that that's an important distinction is because there is still no accurate way to measure all veterans in college. We only, through the government apparatus, have the ability to measure those that are using benefits. In addition to those veterans that are using the benefits, there's about 67, almost 70,000, family members that are also using the benefits. So we choose the term student veterans, much like a student athlete. Their primary role in college is to be a student. Not necessarily...They don't come to college to be veterans. They come to college to be students. And so from that perspective, the landscape that we can see in an aperture is about just over a million. From that perspective, what we start looking at is the average age of the population is between 24 and 36 years of age, although there are some older and there are some younger. Just a few years ago, we graduated a student veteran from the University of Southern California who was the oldest undergrad in USC history, 94 years young and a World War Two veteran. So proving the notion you're never too old to go back to college, right? But in addition to age, we know that about 52 percent of the population is married while they're back in school. Another 20 percent are single parents. If we look at it, student veterans actually overrepresent as women. Nationwide, only about 11 percent of the entire country's veteran population is women. Active duty force is about 18 percent and growing. Women in college as veterans or women student veterans actually make up about 26 percent of the student veteran population. In addition to that, we look at what they're majoring in. So the top three majors of this generation in this order are business, science, technology, engineering and math, and then health related fields and that accounts for about 52 percent of all majors. If you want to take it out to the top 70 percent, you'll add computer science and things in the cyber field. So these are not only academically rigorous degrees that they're graduating with, but they're very marketable post-graduation. And the reason that I say that these are the degrees they graduated with is it's not aspirational, right? They're not majoring in it and we'll see what happens--this is what they've actually completed, which is pretty cool. And the nationwide GPA for this community right now is a 3.34, among the highest of any subsector of post-secondary education.

Jon Turk [00:14:09] So hang on that for a second. We were talking a little bit about some of the misconceptions that there are oftentimes right? That student veterans are a population in need of a lot of additional services and support just to get through. But you confront that with an average GPA of 3.34. Can you talk a little bit about maybe what are some of the misconceptions out there about student veterans and how are they doing?

Jared Lyon [00:14:32] Absolutely. And I never mean to sound controversial when I say this, but I've traveled the country to just over 330 college and university campuses in 48 different states. And very often when I'm on a campus, I'm there clearly to meet with student veterans, military connect students, supporters and allies. But I also very frequently have the opportunity to sit down with university decisionmakers, presidents and chancellors, pro boasts, deans, et cetera. And the sentiment that I still hear today in 2019 is, "Well, gee, golly, you know, thank you for your service and the service of these fine women and men. But let's be honest, I mean, you know, if they were able to get into college, how'd they ever wind up in the military?" And there's still this notion that my generation winds up in the military. Presently, 71 percent of adult aged Americans are actually ineligible to join the U.S. military. My generation doesn't wind up in the military. We choose the military among lots of different options. That's a very technically complex military that we have today. And we're providing opportunity for young women and men to do that. So we covered that hurdle. The other misconceptions are that the majority of the population of student veterans are enlisted veterans such as myself. Now the military has varying distinctions of how you can serve. We have enlisted folks that do not require degrees, then warrant officers and then commissioned officers who require a bachelor's degree at minimum. So when you look at it, about 90 percent of veterans that are in college right now are just like myself, a former enlisted members of the military who might not have had a degree before we came in, though we might have had some college, done some college while we were on active duty and then separate to transfer into post-secondary education. So the first assumption is that the majority of us may only use our G.I. Bill for vocational or certificate-based training versus post-secondary degree seeking students. The vast majority, about 95 percent of us, use our G.I. Bill to pursue associates through PhDs. The next assumption is that most of us will be achieving only associate's degrees as a result. Now, 67 percent of us do what I did. They start at community college, but many of us actually don't use our G.I. Bill benefit at community college because we've realized that it's very cheap per credit hour. So we pay out of pocket. We get more academic credit for our military experience at a community college than, say, a four-year school. We build up an academic transcript, spend on average two semesters, and then we are actually matriculating as transfer juniors to four years. We turn our G.I. Bill on then and then we have enough G.I. Bill leftover for a Masters. About 46 percent of student veterans that finish their four -year degree go on to graduate with a masters. And so when you look at it overall, the degrees earned on the G.I. Bill in this order are four-year bachelor's degrees, then master's degrees, then associate's degrees and then terminal degrees. So PhDs, JDs, M.D.s and the like. And then the next assumption is that, if all of this is true and even if you believe that student veterans are succeeding while on campus, there's still this lingering myth that, well, they just don't graduate. I think the most fair measure for post-traditional students is likely the success rate. And if you look at the success rate of student veterans today, it's presently 72 percent, which is higher than traditional students and approaching that of essentially international students.

Sarah Spreitzer [00:17:57] And that's like the completion rate to a terminal degree?

Jared Lyon [00:18:00] Yes, ma'am. You've got it. And so then the last thing to sort of mention about the population is the sheer dollars that come into post-secondary education on the G.I. Bill. Last year alone, $12 billion was spent on educating this one million student veterans in college. And since 2009, our government has spent $101 billion dollars educating it. So if we understand that this population has the means to pay for school through their military service by earning the G.I. Bill, then we can start sort of re-shaping our thinking and starting from a new operating position. And what we are trying to work with higher ed leaders to understand is if you are trying to prepare for the wave that is coming of post-traditional students in higher ed and expanding education opportunity for Americans that have been left out, then I would submit that today's student veterans are the tip of the spear for the wave that is coming and the number one barrier for post traditional students in the opportunity for an education is access to financing. And student veterans, if you think about it, it's a control group. They bring access to financing through the G.I. Bill, but really post-traditional students and student veterans mirror each other for needs in higher ed. So if you can get it right for student veterans who bring the financing, you can get it right for all nontraditional students in higher ed.

Jon Turk [00:19:25] I would just say so we've thrown out the word post-traditional students a couple of times here. And so at ACE, we use that term post traditional to define students who are enrolled in post-secondary education, so that can be from credit-based certificate programs all the way through PhDs, terminal degree types, that are 25 years or older, who are independent. So it's any one of these characteristics: 25 years or older, who are independent, who may be working full-time, who are in some way connected to the military and maybe caring for dependents themselves. And at the undergraduate level, I mean, this makes up well over half of all students that are currently enrolled in higher education. But just in identifying that group, ACE...we spend a lot of time thinking about how we and how institutions of higher ed can really serve those students well. And so it's not just about those characteristics. It's really recognizing that post-traditional students or post-traditional learners, their experiences also influence how they learn. So when we're talking about post-traditional students, we're talking about ways that institutions can better serve them. And so there are important considerations around transfer. You were talking a little bit about your experience transferring from a community college to a four-year institution. And so recognizing that today's students or a post-traditional student are going to attend and have multiple different attendance patterns. So making sure the transfer of credit goes through smoothly, which gets into the idea of flexible pathways, that there are a variety of different credentials that students can earn, whether that's a certificate or an associate of applied science, that none of these educational credentials should be a dead end. They should all be stackable on their way to whatever the next degree that is needed. And really talking about that, these students are bringing in a variety of life experiences that influence how they learn. And as a result, the teaching and learning mission of institution should grow to reflect that. So how do you advance the instruction that's going on the classroom that really is able to pull from and help engage students from their own previous work experiences or life experience, how to connect the material in the course or in the classroom with their experiences? Can you talk a little bit about some of the services or what should institutions be doing to best serve these particular populations? Because I think really there's a lot of similarities between our military, our student veteran population and our post traditional students.

Sarah Spreitzer [00:21:46] I was just going to add and also any examples of institutions that you think are doing a good job?

Jared Lyon [00:21:53] Absolutely. So, I mean, really, when we think about it, I believe that it goes to the ability to start from the right operating position. So if we start from the right operating position with post-traditional students, which is that they've just taken a different path to your classroom. And if you're the instructor, you're the professor in that classroom. if you realize that they've just taken a different path, but not necessarily because they weren't "college ready." It's just a different path. Then you can embrace the notion that they are contributing to the diversity of thought and lived experience to that classroom and that campus community, which is incredibly valuable. The one area that I like to sort of couch this for educators and decision makers in post-secondary education is to sort of think of military service really in the same way that you think of a gap year or a service year. I just have come to call military service an extended gap year. The average student veteran is going to have served a five and a half years and will be on a college classroom within seven months of separating from active duty. And the unique thing about a service year or a gap year, is that, very often if you don't have the financial means to be able to support your own sort of needs while you're doing one, you're kind of left out. So if you're somebody who's coming from, you know, a socio-economically challenged background, you may not have the opportunity even for a service year. But everything else that we know about service years and gap years really pertain to the military population once they get to your campus as student veterans. But then even further, it's sort of understanding from an institutional level, what is our strategy? And a lot of folks will define themselves as military or veteran-friendly. And if you know why you are military or veteran-friendly, I encourage you to continue to do it. If you can define it and you can measure it, keep doing it. But if you notice that there's still "challenges" with integrating your student veteran population, I'd encourage you to think of a strategy of driving veteran inclusion. And when you drive veteran inclusion, it starts at the beginning. So if you start thinking through, how do we bring them in? Generally speaking, some of the best schools will say, "Well, I want more student veterans. I'm just not sure where to look." And they wonder that it's going to be a burden financially to sort of bring them to campus. Some of the best schools in the country actually don't spend any extra money on any of the efforts that they're doing to recruit student veterans. They just make sure that they include student veterans with all the populations that they are trying to appeal to at the undergraduate or graduate levels. And so if you do that, it's sort of...Even looking through the regular sort of marketing and advertising you do. It's college football season, right? Like the NCAA. We always have the two commercials for Virginia Tech and Virginia playing each other, right? Make sure that 30 second spot is not just inclusive of the full kaleidoscope of representation of your campus, but that it also is including your military and veteran-connected students on campus as well. And looking forward to the notion that once they come to campus, how will they come to campus? Post-traditional students come a little bit older and then exactly what you described in all the categories. I essentially have come to call student veterans the uber post traditional students. They check nearly every box that you just describe. And so when they do, we have to sort of think through how we onboard them to this experience or orient them. Orientation, especially orientation for transfer students, is absolutely vital and very frequently we condense transfer orientation so it's not as long. But what we do is we may remove some of that opportunity to be exposed to the artifacts and symbols of campus life. And so that is robbing that nontraditional or post traditional student from truly embracing their new campus environment. And then the second element to those orientations is to ensure that they're inclusive of family--however, the post traditional student defines it, right? That could be their significant other. That could be their children. In some cases, it might be mom and dad. But family, how that post traditional student defines it. And then the next notion is to sort of think through childcare opportunities. So when we look at childcare, it is the #1 barrier for student veterans to academic success, especially at the four-year undergraduate level. And if we think through the resources we already have, a lot of our campuses, from community colleges to four years to research institutions, we usually have child care options. They're just usually only available for faculty, staff and graduate students. So expanding that opportunity. A great example of this would be at Colorado State University. Now they've got an awesome program for early childhood development. So they have students that are getting practicum experience running basically an on-campus childcare center, but they're looking at it in a unique way. So when we say childcare options for four-year or undergraduate post-traditional students, we think 9 to 5. It's not the 9 to 5 childcare, it's the care before their regular option is available or in the evenings or over weekends, extra time during study periods or, you know, when you're in that group project and you're a junior and you're 38 years old with two kids and the 21 year old junior sets the class meeting at nine thirty at night. Like I put my kids to bed at nine or around midterms or finals. And so at Colorado State, they've made it available for any military-connected student veteran who has a family that they can come at odd hours and regular hours for their kids. They have to be on campus while they're doing it. And that's a key distinction. But it brings them into that environment. And then there's things like advising and the opportunity for employment while on campus. So we know that post-traditional students who are working full- or part-time are moving their academic schedule around their work schedule. And so if we start thinking through the resources we already have on campus, our campus career centers, right? If we start thinking through those amazing professionals who know what the heck they're doing, but they add a post traditional option of like, "How can we reach out to the local community for employment options for our student veterans and post traditional students who would need to do a job that fits into an academic schedule?" We wind up seeing better outcomes or thinking through internships and externship for post traditional students. We often think that those are available in the summertime. They usually are, which is great. But if you're a post traditional student/student veteran, you may have your children over the summer based on a complex family situation. And the further thing to note is that paid internships are awesome. But when you are an adult learner and you're a grown-up back in school, you can't maintain two households and, say you go to school in Virginia, but you get the internship in Chicago. It's paid and that's great. But you have to maintain two households for a summer. You don't have those.

Jon Turk [00:28:36] I mean, one thing that I would point out here and you know, just for clarification, I wouldn't consider myself an expert on student veterans. It's not a particular student population that I have studied extensively. But as I listen to a lot of the support services and the things that you're talking about, these are things higher ed knows well. And there are things that apply to a variety of populations. We're talking about comprehensive support services and and being able to provide childcare and flexibility in scheduling and items like that. We're talking about high impact practices. We're talking about internships and externships. These are things that are likely already going on on your campus in many situations that maybe just needs a little bit of reconfiguration to best serve these post traditional and military connected student veteran populations. But they're not brand new. This is not...This isn't rocket science, I guess.

Sarah Spreitzer [00:29:28] Well, and also that it's not a one size fits all model. It might be different depending on your institution and the population that you're serving. And so I guess kind of to bring it back around. I mean, ACE, from the government relations perspective has worked with SVA on a lot of legislation. And one of the things that we sometimes see is this one size fits all model. Can you talk about like some of the legislative successes of SVA, things that you think really were important? We just saw the CIT Rep bill passed earlier this year that I think is really helpful to kind of clarify to institutions like the policy that they need to have regarding V.A. educational payments. But can you just talk a bit about those legislative successes, where you think the policy works and maybe looking forward to what SVA is going to be asking for in policy changes?

Jared Lyon [00:30:21] Yes, Sarah. I mean, I appreciate the question. And really, SVA from its founding days was a grassroots advocacy effort. Said another way, we do go up to the Hill pretty regularly. Some of the successes that we have are obviously, we are part of the coalition for the post 9/11 G.I. Bill. But then there were things like in-state tuition. So there was a big barrier for student veterans for a long period of time. Like, you know, I started college in Florida. We would see very regularly student veterans would move to Florida but have residency in Texas or Ohio or wherever it was and have to wait 12 months for their in-state. So we worked with state legislatures actually to help pass in each state around the country until we received a mass of over 30 states, then became law of the land that if you separate and start school within three years at any state school, you now get automatic in-state tuition. But then, you know, obviously more recent wins, such as the Forever G.I. Bill, which combined a whole onslaught of different provisions and a national coalition of veteran organizations, military family organizations, military survivor, also the surviving families of veterans and service members but higher ed organizations. And I think the cool thing about the future from a legislative perspective is, at Student Veterans of America, I think for a lot of veteran advocacy organizations, we always spend our time with the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, maybe the Department of Labor, and then that's kind of it. But there's this whole world of higher education policy and advocacy that is really the sweet spot of an organization called Student Veterans of America. And so for us, it's working with great organizations like ACE to sort of understand your priorities, but then also understand how that fits into student veterans, military-connected students, family members, such that we can drive policy, that is actually what I like to say, culturally competent to post-secondary education, because very frequently as it pertains to veteran policy in higher ed, it's driven by non-higher ed folks. And I think that that winds up causing a lot of friction at the point when folks actually get to college and start to use their G.I. Bill on campus.

Sarah Spreitzer [00:32:33] Yeah, well, we very much appreciate SVA and all the work that you're doing. I think that there's a lot of things that we find to work on. And Jon and I are going to be talking in a few minutes about the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Looking forward to that, are there priorities for SVA and that large piece of legislation?

Jared Lyon [00:32:49] Yeah, I mean, 100 percent. So generally speaking, when you look at it, there's...I mean, it's big, right? Like there's 1,100+ pages, give or take, right? But in looking for some of the opportunity for parity and equity as it pertains to data is one are the big things. So if you start looking at the opportunity for the Department of Veterans Affairs, who tracks a whole bunch of information, the Department of Education, who tracks a whole bunch of information about perhaps the same one student, being able to actually transfer that information so we can get a picture of the whole student. Looking at things like that are going to be really important for us.

Sarah Spreitzer [00:33:24] And it's hard to get the V.A. and ED to talk to each other.

Jared Lyon [00:33:27] You're not kidding.

Sarah Spreitzer [00:33:28] I mean, we've found that with IRS, too. I mean, it's just hard to get those agencies to work together because they are very much siloed.

Jared Lyon [00:33:35] They are. And, you know, when you start looking at like even budgets at V.A. of two hundred and what, thirty billion dollars compared to ED's $60 or $70 billion, they're different-sized staffs. They're different-sized missions. And I think sometimes the Department of Veterans Affairs looks at what its job is to do is to administer benefits and provide health care. And they do a very good job of that. But when we start talking about the G.I. Bill, I think that there's a really great opportunity to partner with how the Department of Ed thinks of benefits and student outcomes. And if we can drive some of that shared knowledge with Ed and V.A. to actually start looking at the whole student, we not only will see better outcomes, but we can track them longitudinally such that we can better understand the population and how we can impact all post traditional students. So what's good for figuring out student veterans actually winds up being good for helping us better serve all post-traditional students?

Sarah Spreitzer [00:34:32] That's great. I think we're about at our time, Jared. I just wanted to thank you so much. And I think institutions who are listening to this are going to be very interested in exploring SVA and what you do. Is there a good way to contact you or if a president is listening to this podcast and says, "Wow, the SVA is doing some really great things. I'd love to connect with Jared. I'd love to connect with the organization." What's the best way?

Jared Lyon [00:34:56] So we're here at like the probably birthplace of all higher ed institutions at One Dupont, right? The big guys. We're just a few blocks away over at 14th and K Street, about three blocks from the White House. So first off, one, we would always welcome anyone to come visit us at our national headquarters at 14th and K Street. In addition, you can visit our Web site at And I would also suggest giving us a call at our office at (202) 223-4710. Or you can send us an email at We check that email multiple times a day. That's probably the easiest way to get in touch with us.

Sarah Spreitzer [00:35:36] Great. Thanks so much, Jared.

Jared Lyon [00:35:37] Thanks so much for having us and for highlighting the importance of student veterans in postsecondary education.

Sarah Spreitzer [00:35:42] Great. Thanks.

Sarah Spreitzer [00:35:48] And we're back. Thanks again to Jared Lyon from the Student Veterans of America for being here. That was such an interesting conversation.

Jon Turk [00:35:56] Yeah, wasn't he great?

Sarah Spreitzer [00:35:58] It was really great, because I seriously only know SVA from their advocacy role. But I guess I never really thought about how our institutions have things that are already set up for veterans. And it really takes kind of bringing that population into it. So it was really great. So, Jon, you talked a little bit about your glamorous meetings at the Department of ED earlier this week. So what were you doing over there? I find IPEDS so mysterious. Like what were you guys talking about?

Jon Turk [00:36:30] So the Department of Education convenes these groups they call technical review panels.

Sarah Spreitzer [00:36:35] I've heard of those.

Jon Turk [00:36:35] Yes. They're a blast. But there's probably two or three a year related to IPEDS. And so they bring together a group of about 40 experts in higher education. So these are sometimes directors from offices of institutional research on a campus, faculty, researchers, some of our research colleagues at other associations. And we basically come together and talk about ways to improve and strengthen the IPEDS collection. So IPEDS is a collection of multiple surveys of institutional level data--.

Sarah Spreitzer [00:37:04] What does it actually stand for? Integrated Post-Secondary Education Data?

Jon Turk [00:37:09] --System! You were so close. You just missed the last part but you almost got it. Yes. So IPEDS and so if you are a institution that participates in the Title IV federal financial aid program, you are by law required to submit your institutional data to IPEDS once a year. And so it's through a series of surveys that provides rich information about institutional characteristics, student enrollment and completions. That's where the student federal graduation rate comes from. It's reported to two iPods. Their information on faculty and staff. Institutional revenues and expenditures. It's just kind of like the mothership of all higher education based institutional data.

Sarah Spreitzer [00:37:49] And then I've heard of technical review panels because it allows for the department to engage with the stakeholders when they're setting up new things, but it's not negotiated rulemaking.

Jon Turk [00:37:58] No, exactly. It's completely outside of that process. It's really the Department of Education beginning the conversation with folks in the field to try to help them think through what maybe would need to go to the next level and like rulemaking or anything for public comment. And so we were talking about things like free college plans. And so as we're seeing kind of the proliferation of free tuition college plans. Like what impact might that have on how institutions report their tuition revenue to the Department of Education? Or the cost of attendance calculation, how institutions calculate that and how that can vary widely, even with institutions that are even located in the same geographic area. And so we were talking a lot about those kinds of issues. But, you know, something that really kind of occurred to me as we do these kinds of emerging issues/landscape-like scans maybe once every three or four years, but with the HEA bill, the Higher Education Act coming out, I can imagine there's gonna be a lot of things in that bill that are gonna make us think on our end, "But what does IPEDS need to do to better collect data on those kinds of things? What are some of the stuff you're seeing in the HEA?

Sarah Spreitzer [00:39:07] Oh yeah. So well we kind of referenced this at the beginning of the podcast, but the House introduced their version of the Higher Education Act reauthorization, they're calling it the College Affordability Act and it's over 1,100 pages long. You probably remember two years ago we were dealing with the House Republican bill, which was called the PROSPER Act. That one was about half the size. So this one is twice as large. In comparison with the PROSPER Act, it has a lot more money for student aid, which we're really happy about and I think students will be happy with. But for institutions of higher ed, there's also a lot of regulatory stuff that we're still working through to try and understand how it would impact our institutions. And then also how it would impact how we serve students. So we're still doing the analysis of the bill. We have kind of a list going of the good, the bad, and the ugly. And then the mix. But it is moving very, very quickly. We're trying to get our analysis done now to get it done maybe by Friday so that--.

Jon Turk [00:40:15] Is there is reason why it's moving so quickly? Because I mean, we're overdue for reauthorization.

Sarah Spreitzer [00:40:19] We are. We're really overdue. I think, you know, part of it is politics, right? We're moving into election season--if we're not already in election season. I think the leadership in the House wants to demonstrate that they're taking action on these issues that are really big for voters. College debt, college costs, completion, transfer of credit, all of those great issues. And, you know, it is moving in a partisan manner and so it will likely pass out of committee on a partisan vote. And then if they bring it up to the floor, if it passes the House, it will likely be a lot of Democrats voting for it. The Senate, you know, is very different. We are really behind the ball and on the need to pass on the legislation. And there is a package of bills in the Senate, but it's not a comprehensive higher education reauthorization bill.

Jon Turk [00:41:13] I mean, I don't want to get like super far down the aisle, but let's say, you know, everything--sun comes out, the sky parts and the House passes their bill. What kind of--.

Sarah Spreitzer [00:41:22] Well, it's not going to move in the Senate. But I think it becomes a marker bill. And so then when you get into the next Congress, do they reintroduce it? If somehow control of the Senate flips in the next election, then are they taking pieces of the House bill for their bill? And so it's moving the conversation forward. And I think that we all need to look at it, understand it, understand how it's going to impact us. But this bill, as it is, is likely not going to get to the Senate.

Jon Turk [00:41:53] So one thing that Jarod was talking about again and what I like to talk about a lot is data. So is there anything in the HEA about student data systems?

Sarah Spreitzer [00:42:02] Yeah. So it actually includes a version of the College Transparency Act. It lifts the ban on student unit data. And we have started to see, I think, some traction around the idea of moving that idea. So Senator Alexander in the Senate introduced this package of bills. It didn't include the College Transparency Act, but he talked about the fact that he was looking into it and he was open to the idea of talking about including some sort of version of it. So, you know, that's one of the issues, whether it's this year, next year or in the next Congress, it's probably--.

Jon Turk [00:42:39] Not going anywhere, right?

Sarah Spreitzer [00:42:39] It's not going anywhere, yeah. It's just, you know, what sort of form is it going to take?

Jon Turk [00:42:45] Sure, sure, sure.

Sarah Spreitzer [00:42:47] Well, thanks, Jon. I think that's about the end of our podcast. So thanks for listening. Be sure to subscribe and listen to more episodes on Apple podcast, Stitcher, Google podcasts or go to our Web site and e-mail us at Thanks.


About the Podcast

​Each episode of dotEDU presents a deep dive into a major issue impacting college campuses and students across the country. Hosts from ACE are joined by guest experts to lead you through thought-provoking conversations on topics such as campus free speech, diversity in admissions, college costs and affordability, and more. Find all episodes of the podcast a​t the dotEDU page.

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