Who's Backing Efforts to Get More Vets Through College?

As the presence of the U.S.'s 21.6 million military vets increases on campus, so does philanthropic support to ensure that this trend continues, that vets get a quality educational experience, and that they finish their degrees. 

Just under three percent of all freshmen at all baccalaureate institutions of higher education were either veterans or actively enrolled in the military in 2013, according to The American Freshman: National Norms survey, and there's been a big increase over the past few years. New data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs shows that about 28,261 vets now use GI Bill money to attend University of Phoenix alone.

Early this month, private funders, the Council on Foundations and White House representatives  announced the "Philanthropy-Joining Forces Impact Pledge," which aims to "support the education, employment, and wellness of veterans" over the next five years.

Twenty-seven participating private funders have promised a total of around $325 million as part of the pledge, according to a list provided by San Diego Grantmakers. Another seven funders have agreed to participate, but have not yet declared the amount they intend to give. Likewise, the Walmart Foundation, a major supporter of veterans’ education, this year announced that it will double the amount of money it devotes to that purpose from $10 million to $20 million by the year 2019. 

Barring these recent spikes in giving for vets' education over the past few months, this chart gives a rundown of the other largest donors in higher educations for vets and their activity in this area over the past decade.

Source: The Foundation Directory Online

Another recent survey, conducted in 2012, says some interesting things about the demand-side for this funding on campus. It found that more colleges and universities will be seeking out private funding to support enrolled vets in the next five years than they do now. Most notably, about 39 percent of public 4-year schools reported that they have sought private funding for veteran-centered programs in the past. About 57 percent said they plan to do so over the next five years.

Source: American Council for Education

Giving to on-campus higher education programs for military-affiliated students is only one way in which philanthropists participate. Some donors also support counseling programs for soldiers-turned-students; others aim to bolster what federal tuition support veterans receive through programs like the GI Bill. The Bechtel Corporation for example funds a scholarship through the Society of Engineers for academically promising female veterans currently enrolled in engineering programs.