Iowa's Public Universities Supporting Veterans
In 2010, Governor Terry Branstad signed the Home Base Iowa bill. Home Base Iowa (HBI) put into place a number of programs, incentives and requirements to better support military veterans and their families, and encourage them to make Iowa their home. A key pillar of those efforts was postsecondary education opportunities. Institutions have done many things to ensure that active duty, National Guard, Reserve and veteran students are made to feel welcome on their campuses, including specialized orientation opportunities, and centers on campus where support staff connect students with services to support their unique needs.
“Military-connected students are unique in that they are coming to Higher Education from a structured environment,” said Chiquita Loveless, Director of Military and Veteran Student Services at UNI and a US Navy veteran. “UNI has the support systems in place that our military students need, including spaces for connecting with one another, a Military and Veteran Student Services Advocate, and the UNI Veteran Association. The added essentials of having accessibility services, tutors, mentors and support from faculty and staff provide that extra boost which allows each military and veteran student the support system to ensure success in the civilian sector.”
In addition to creating a more welcoming environment on Iowa’s college campuses, the Home Base Iowa initiative also expanded the assessment of credit for prior learning for veterans. Previously, gaps in communication to students and a lack of understanding among faculty meant credits for military service were often underutilized. With Home Base Iowa initiatives military veterans can more easily realize their opportunities to gain college credit for their military service.
Since Home Base Iowa was enacted 10 years ago, Iowa’s public universities commitment to veteran students has been clear. The percentage of newly enrolled, first-time-in-college veteran students who receive college credit for their military training has tripled, up to 53 percent in 2020. Additionally, these students are earning an average of 22 credits, double what was reported in 2011. The bulk of these credits are being applied to the major programs the students pursue, ensuring meaningful progress toward a degree.
Callie Morrow, Academic Advisor for Engineering-Liberal Arts & Sciences Online, has spearheaded much of this work at Iowa State University. As a military spouse herself, she understands what it means to these students, as well as the importance of the university getting it right. “Staff and faculty have committed significant time to reviewing various training and educational content in multiple branches of service,” said Morrow. “They try to find where the learning outcomes align with ISU academic programs and merit earning college credit. As ISU has expanded these articulations, we see how grateful students are for the acknowledgement of their learning and hard work while serving our country.”
The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) recently released a report indicating that at a sample of institutions from across the country, the average percent of students receiving credit for military training at public universities was 43 percent, or 10 percentage points below Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, and the University of Northern Iowa. Additionally, the average credits awarded at those institutions was 17.4, well below the 22 credit average at Iowa’s Regent Universities.
CAEL’s more important finding is that students who are awarded credit for military learning have a greater likelihood of completing their degrees. More than 1,800 veterans are enrolled in Iowa’s public universities in any given year, which translates into a significant and positive impact on the student bodies, as well as on the Iowa workforce when they graduate and launch their careers.