Understanding the Undergraduate Student Veteran- ACE Infographic Analysis – November 2014

As part of its new infographic series, in November 2014, the American Council on Education (ACE) released a good visualization of some 2013-2014 student Veteran data. (A copy of the infographic may be downloaded on ACE’s webpage, or by clicking on the PDF file attached at the end of this article). Based on the data, we have put together our own analysis and key takeaways.

1) Only 1 in 5 Veterans (20%) is pursuing a STEM degree.

What is STEM? STEM is an acronym referring to science, technology, engineering, or mathematics fields.

The problem with the Veteran STEM statistics is that many recent reports of the entry level job market (such as burning glass’s 2013 real-time job report) indicate that as much as “48% of all entry-level jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher (BA+) are in STEM fields.” This means only 4-5% of Veterans are pursuing studies in fields that comprise 50% of the job market. Conversely, this means 80% of Veterans are studying disciplines that will all compete for the same 50% slice of the non-STEM job market. Talk about a competitive environment for non-STEM jobs!

2) Student Veterans are 9% less likely to pursue STEM fields than non-Veteran undergraduate students. But, why? 

The ACE data doesn’t explain why only 20% of student Veterans are expected to pursue STEM fields in comparison to 29% of non-Veteran undergraduate students. However, if we look at the demographic information in the ACE infographic, roughly 50% of Veterans are  married, or have dependents, or are working full-time. Thus, one supposition is that there may be fewer Veterans pursuing STEM degrees because Veterans tend to have more external obligations than a traditional undergraduate student. It’s possible Veterans may be opting for non-STEM degrees because many STEM programs require more lab hours, advanced course work, and clinical work, leaving less time for non-academic obligations.

Regardless of the reasons why Veterans may or may not opt to pursue STEM fields, Combat2Career believes greater effort should be made to inform Veterans about STEM career paths since data shows that students that pursue a STEM degree are more likely to benefit once they reach the job market. Not only will they be competing against a smaller applicant pool in comparison to other fields of study, but they also stand a better chance of securing a higher starting salary upon entering the workforce. STEM entry level jobs typically pay ~$14,000 per year more than non-STEM jobs!

3) 77% of all Veterans attend a school within 100 miles of their home. 

Veterans are far more likely to attend local colleges as commuter students, rather than living on campus. Thus, colleges should evaluate ways in which they can offer flexible class schedules and support services, and even consider supplementing their offerings with virtual services, to accommodate students that may not be widely available to attend meetings and events on campus.

4) A startlingly large number of Veterans do not receive undergraduate Veterans’ benefits. 

Combat2Career was surprised to see that only 59% of student Veterans receive Veterans’ education benefits. We question what percentage of the student Veteran population is ineligible for Veterans’ benefits versus what percentage of student Veterans are eligible for VA benefits but elect not to use them. Given the many incentive programs available to support student Veterans, including state-specific Veteran tuition waivers, we suspect that a substantial number of student Veterans may be eligible for benefits but choose not to use them, or be forced to fund their education out-of-pocket due to difficulties experienced while trying to claim their benefits.

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Sources: acenet.edu and burning-glass.com