Service Members’ Transition to Community College

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Introduction

As demographics of college and university students in the United States evolve, so too must the policies and procedures used to assist students in their pursuit of post-secondary education (Radford, 2009). By the passage of educational acts such as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (Public Law 78-346), the 1985 Montgomery GI Bill (Public Law 110-252), and now the Post 9/11 GI Bill (Public Law 100-48), institutions of higher education have committed themselves not only to educate the recently discharged and deactivated, but to address a student population with unique needs. Student development practitioners must adapt strategies to assist the transition experience of their military students.

Unlike any other student population, developmental progression and academic acclimation following military enlistment is compounded by a host of obstacles such as mental health needs and psychosocial disruption (Sachs, 2008). As growing numbers of post-9/11 veterans return from their deployments and the numbers of enrolled active service members continue to rise, leaders in higher education must determine how to support the mental, physical, and social needs for this student base.

While considerable research addresses veteran and military service members’ civilian re-entry challenges (Ackerman, DiRamio, and Mitchell, 2009; Radford, 2009) there is a lack of theoretical models for which practitioners can look to for information regarding the specific population of community college student soldiers and veterans. Existing student development theories can be adapted to support this population; what is lost in the adaptation is an holistic approach focused on the unique life experiences attributed only to this specific popu...

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