Panel Paper: Student Veterans' Outcomes By Higher Education Sector: Evidence From Three Cohorts of the Baccalaureate and Beyond

Saturday, November 9, 2013 : 2:05 PM
Thomas Salon (Washington Marriott)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Jennifer Steele, Geoffrey McGovern and Peter Buryk, RAND Corporation
Following a series of recent reports by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, the for-profit higher education sector has come under intense public scrutiny for misleading recruitment practices, high student-loan default rates, and poor labor market outcomes among its students. Because military and veteran education benefits, such as the new Post-9/11 GI Bill, are treated preferentially under federal regulations on for-profits, much attention has focused on these institutions’ recruitment of military veterans. Undergraduate veterans are indeed more likely to attend for-profit institutions than their fellow undergraduates; roughly 14% did so in 2008, as compared to 9% of other undergraduates, according to the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study.

Policymakers are left wondering how military veterans who earn degrees from for-profits actually fare in the labor market, relative to similar peers from public and nonprofit private institutions. In other words, what do the employment outcomes of graduating veterans look like, and how is the sector of their academic institutions (public, nonprofit private, or for-profit private) related to their early career prospects.

This study examines whether recent college graduates who are military veterans experience differential employment outcomes than non-veterans one year post-graduation and different educational debt levels at the point of graduation.  Using existing data collected by the National Center on Education Statistics (the Baccalaureate and Beyond dataset) for a nationally representative sample of individuals who earned bachelor’s degrees in 1993, 2000, and 2008, we estimate the full-time employment rates, incomes, and student-loan debt levels for veteran and non-veteran graduates. We also examine the extent to which veterans’ outcomes vary by the sector of the college from which they graduate—public, private nonprofit, or private for-profit. Our within-cohort analysis, which adjusts for students’ background characteristics, focuses on outcomes one year post-graduation for all three cohorts, and extends to five and ten years post-graduation for the 1993 cohort.

Initial results suggest that one year after graduation, veterans are more likely to be employed in full-time positions, are earning more, and have graduated with less student-loan debt that than their non-veteran counterparts, and that these effects are stable across cohorts and institution types. Though these data predate recent improvements to veterans’ education benefits in the form of the Post-9/11GI Bill, they suggest that veterans who have recently earned college degrees may outperform their counterparts in the labor market, on average, across institution types.

Though a few existing studies examine either the postsecondary experiences of returning veterans or the returns to for-profit education, there is little extant research at the intersection of these two bodies of literature.  The proposed paper is intended to help bridge that gap, illuminating recent trends in veterans’ higher education outcomes by sector.