Process to Measure Student Veterans’ Success Should be Streamlined
By Doug Shapiro, Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center
On Tuesday, Feb. 7, I participated in a roundtable discussion with members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Veterans’ Affairs regarding the need for better measures of student veteran outcomes. This is critical to empowering colleges and universities to better support their student-veteran population and identify when veterans need the most support.
According to the National Veterans Education Success Tracker (NVEST) report, more than 100,000 student veterans who used the Post-9/11 GI Bill graduated in 2014. NVEST is a collaborative research effort among the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), Student Veterans of America, and the National Student Clearinghouse to discover how veterans are using their GI Bill and how they are performing.
I explained to members of the committee that one of the best ways to help student veterans succeed is to make sure that everyone has access to valid, timely outcomes data. Institutions can then benchmark their efforts, measure progress and improve, and students can plan realistically and wisely.
NVEST is a great proof of concept that shows the data necessary to do this exists, but the process is cumbersome. Because of veteran student mobility and attendance at many campuses, institution-level data is not sufficient to measure their outcomes. Policy leaders and campuses must look at national data to see what works.
However, no single entity has all the data required to calculate the outcomes:
- The Veterans Benefits Administration does not have the enrollment and degree data;
- The Clearinghouse does not have the cohort information; and
- Institutions do not have the mobility data and often, not the full cohort either.
The solution to this challenge is similar to other data exchange services that the Clearinghouse has developed for higher education over the past 24 years, and the Clearinghouse welcomes an opportunity to help.
The recently enacted Veterans Health Care and Benefit Improvement Act contained a provision requiring institutions to report annually on the “academic progress” of their veteran benefit recipients. While details of what this will specifically involve have not been determined yet by VA, the enrollment and degree data that the Clearinghouse holds on behalf of institutions will be a key part of meeting this new requirement.
In addition, the Clearinghouse is discussing with the VBA a Veterans Compliance Reporting Re-Engineering Project. This endeavor addresses the need to convert today’s manual and labor-intensive, veterans-compliance reporting process into a streamlined solution. It also enables data to be submitted by educational institutions directly into the VA-ONCE and VACERT systems operated by the VA.
“Because of veteran mobility and attendance at many campuses, institution-level data is not sufficient to measure student outcomes. Policy leaders and campuses must look at national data to see what works.”
Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center
Doug Shapiro (seated at table, facing camera on right) at the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Veterans’ Affairs’ Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity roundtable discussion. (photo courtesy of Student Veterans Association)