Tracking millions

A nontraditional educational path makes veteran students difficult to track.

Biology society and environment sophomore Matthew Cohen, left, and fishers and wildlife junior Dan Dewey, right, study at the Veterans Transition Center in Johnston Hall on Friday, March 7, 2014. Both are veterans and go to the VTC to study and hang out with other student veterans.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Biology society and environment sophomore Matthew Cohen, left, and fishers and wildlife junior Dan Dewey, right, study at the Veterans Transition Center in Johnston Hall on Friday, March 7, 2014. Both are veterans and go to the VTC to study and hang out with other student veterans.

Jeff Hargarten

University of Minnesota student Zac Bair enlisted in the U.S. Army to help pay for college. After three deployments in Afghanistan with the 75th Ranger Regiment and his “fair share” of combat, Bair was honorably discharged. Soon after, he enrolled at the University.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill completely covered his tuition and provided a $1,000 yearly stipend for books and an allowance for living costs. Without GI benefits, Bair said, he would likely be either working low-end jobs, living with his family, homeless or back in the military.

“It’s been a huge load off my shoulders,” he said, as he sets his sights on becoming a high school biology teacher.

Bair is among 1 million students aided in their academic ventures by the 2008 GI Bill, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The U.S. has spent more than $30 billion since 2009 in financial aid for veterans pursuing college degrees. But when it comes to finding out whether those students graduate, answers can be hard to find.

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