Date of Award

Summer 2019

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Educational Leadership and Policies

First Advisor

Douglas A. Smith

Abstract

The relationship between the U.S. military and higher education is one that is unlike any other. As the United States’ economy continues to transition more towards a knowledge-based economy every year, students, especially veterans, are continually faced with the realization that a degree of higher education of some sort is arguably a necessity in order to survive. Data shows that community colleges attract the largest number of veterans compared to other types of institutions including four-year and for-profit colleges and universities (Wheeler, 2012). At 43%, community colleges are the preferred option for veterans across the United States (Wheeler, 2012).

As commonly represented amongst many other researched subgroups, students endure a myriad of different college experiences and circumstances as they transition to the higher education environment, and student veterans are not any different. Student veterans are a diverse subgroup on college campuses who bring with them unique life experiences that are unlike that of any traditional college student. Despite community colleges being the largest server of veterans, there is limited available research on the topic of veterans transitioning. The following qualitative case study, theoretically framed under Schlossberg’s Transition Theory, utilizes semi-structured interviews, focus groups, and social media document analysis to shed light on the transition experiences of veterans as they transition from the military to a community college in the southeastern region of the United States. Four themes emerged from the study including: [1] motivation to enroll in community college, [2] experiencing community college as an institution during a transition, [3] transitioning into academics, and [4] the role of relationships and systems of support during a transition. The findings attempt to fill in the gap in the empirical research and inform community colleges about the transition experiences of veterans.

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