By: 
Marcia Layton Turner
Honoree: 
National University

With as many as 24 percent of National University’s students having served in the military, officials saw a need to support the transition to civilian life and college.

So the San Diego-based institution created the Veteran Student Academic Intervention Program in 2012 to help members of the military earn their degree.

Academic support was the greatest need reported by the university’s military students. Approximately 300 veterans per term find themselves on academic probation (GPA below 2.0) or at risk of being placed on probation (GPA between 2.0 and 2.25).

Students in these two groups are offered tutoring, supplemental instruction and improvement strategies. Each student is paired with a veteran retention and transition specialist, who serves as a coach. Students also work with a peer mentor—a fellow veteran who can be a role model and sounding board.

The program takes a holistic approach to understanding students’ barriers to success. It became clear quickly that the peer mentors aspect was the key. “There is a reluctance among the veteran population to ask for help,” says Joe Zavala, vice president of student services. Once connected with a peer mentor, real change can happen, he adds.

“Because they can relate to someone with the same background, there is a level of trust there that helps veterans open up,” he says. “We can help them once we know what they need.”

Over a nine-month period, 33 percent of students in the program returned to good academic standing. That’s nearly three times the number of students who improve their GPA without intervention.

Success data points

  • 30,000: Students who attend National University, which has 28 campuses; approximately 60 percent attend classes online.
  • 36%: Student veterans surveyed in 2011 who expressed the need for academic support. The same percentage also required degree completion/retention help, and 31% wanted career planning assistance.

Want more information on this success program? Email rbendici@universitybusiness.com to request a complete copy of the institution’s entry form.