The U should keep a better count of veterans

The University should do more to track and retain veteran students, as other universities are doing.

In a project that was six months in the making, the Minnesota Daily explored veteran student experiences and graduation rates across the Big Ten and higher education as a whole.

The story covered a lot of ground, but the challenges in tracking veteran students were particularly striking. The University of Minnesota does not have a system for keeping tabs on veteran students, nor can the University keep comprehensive records of them or track how many drop out or leave for active duty before earning their degree.

Only 913 students accept GI bill benefits or self-identify as veterans at the University, according to One Stop student services. That number seems too low, given that independent research estimated that there are 18,800 veteran students in the state.

The challenges of keeping track of veteran students — and keeping them on track to graduate — aren’t limited to the University. It’s a huge problem that needs national attention, but there are steps the University could take now.

The University of Illinois, Penn State University, the University of Iowa and Purdue University provided the most detailed veteran student data. The University should follow their example.

Further, One Stop should kick-start new initiatives geared toward veteran services and better record-keeping. These improvements were mentioned to the Daily but hedged by phrases like “examining” and “actively looking.”

That’s disappointing. The University should surpass or at least keep pace with its peers in the way it treats veterans. First, we have to find out who they are.