8 Keys to Success: Supporting Veterans, Military and Military Families on Campus

On Saturday, at the Disabled American Veterans National Convention, President Obama outlined five Administration priorities that ensure we are fulfilling our promises to those who have served our nation, including supporting our veterans in institutions of higher learning.  In his speech, President Obama announced that 250 community colleges and universities have committed to implementing the 8 Keys to Success on their campuses. Developed by the Administration, the Department of Education (ED), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in conjunction with more than 100 education experts, the 8 Keys to Success on campus are eight concrete steps that institutions of higher education can take to help veterans and service members transition into the classroom and thrive once they are there. 

The 8 Keys to Success on campus are:

1. Create a culture of trust and connectedness across the campus community to promote well-being and success for veterans.

2. Ensure consistent and sustained support from campus leadership.

3. Implement an early alert system to ensure all veterans receive academic, career, and financial advice before challenges become overwhelming.

4. Coordinate and centralize campus efforts for all veterans, together with the creation of a designated space (even if limited in size).

5. Collaborate with local communities and organizations, including government agencies, to align and coordinate various services for veterans.

6. Utilize a uniform set of data tools to collect and track information on veterans, including demographics, retention and degree completion.

7. Provide comprehensive professional development for faculty and staff on issues and challenges unique to veterans.

8. Develop systems that ensure sustainability of effective practices for veterans.

With more and more service members returning home in the next year, it has never been more important for schools to have a roadmap in place to make sure veterans are getting the best possible educational experience.  By adopting the 8 Keys to Success, schools are taking a positive step in that direction. 

8 Keys To Success Sites

VSOC, VITAL, and 8 Keys to Success Sites (Image from US Department of Education)

The 250 schools that have committed to the 8 Keys to Success are helping veterans and military families afford and complete their college degrees, certificates, industry-recognized credentials and licenses, and—importantly—preparing them for jobs in high-growth sectors of the economy.  More schools are expected to adopt the 8 Keys to Success on campus in the coming months. 

The 8 Keys to Success are only part of the Administration’s efforts to support and protect service members in the classroom.  The Keys build on the Administration’s Principles of Excellence, which President Obama established by Executive Order in April 2012.  The Principles of Excellence provide protections for our military and veterans in institutions of higher education to prevent against dishonest recruiting and predatory practices.  To further veterans’ success in higher education, the VA is also expanding its VetSuccess on Campus and Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership programs, which connect veterans to VA resources.   Together, all of these measures will help provide our veterans and military families with the high-quality, affordable education they deserve. 

We all owe a great debt to those who have served this country.  Giving schools tools they can use to truly welcome and support our returning service members is one way we can help repay that debt by making sure we are providing our veterans and military families with an education worthy of their exceptional talents and experience.

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Sarah Baker is Policy Advisor to Dr. Jill Biden

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