When Edward Godec began attending Rose State College four years ago, one of his first stops on campus was to the school's veterans affairs office.
Godec, a U.S. Army veteran, sat down with an adviser to get his Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits processed. Once the paperwork was complete, he asked what other services the office had to offer.
That was about all, the adviser told him.
Although that lack of services geared toward students who served in the military may have been the norm in the past, recent research suggests colleges and universities nationwide are beginning to beef up their offerings to veterans on campus.
That trend comes at least partly as a response to the most significant influx of student veterans since World War II.
Now a senior at the University of Oklahoma, Godec, 35, said veterans tend to be different from the typical college student. To begin with, he said, they're generally older, having spent several years in the military between high school and college.
Because of their military experience, veterans also tend to view the world differently from other college students, he said. They're often more aware of current events, and they tend to be more attentive even to minor details than most other students.
Going through life that way can be stressful, Godec said, so it's important that student veterans have a place on campus they can go to decompress and talk to people like themselves. When that kind of support isn't offered, he said, it can be easy for veterans to feel out of place or alienated.
“It's a lot more difficult for people who have been in the service and gotten out,” he said.
A recent study from the American Council on Education suggests more colleges and universities are beginning to address those concerns. The study, called “From Soldier to Student II,” was released in July.
The study is an update of a 2009 report that looked at how prepared campuses were to serve student veterans and military students after the 2008 passage of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.
This year's report showed that 62 percent of participating institutions provide programs and services for military service members and veterans, up from 57 percent in 2009. About 71 percent of institutions included in the report said providing such programs and services was part of the school's long-term plan, up from 57 percent in 2009.
The report suggests those increased offerings may be the result of a growing veteran population on college campuses. Schools included in the study saw a spike in the number of student veterans on campus between 2009 and 2012.
In 2009, institutions included in the study had an average of 201 active-duty military students and 156 veterans. This year, those schools averaged 435 active-duty military students and 370 veterans.
“Campuses across the country have taken major steps forward over the past three years to develop more specialized programs and services to serve veteran and military students,” said Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, in a statement. “This report shows that while challenges remain, higher education is working hard to meet the needs of this important and growing population of students.”
Although the report indicates signs of progress, it also lays bare a few areas in which improvements could be made. Only 37 percent of the institutions that provide services for military students and veterans include transition assistance in those programs. And only 28 percent of those schools have developed an expedited re-enrollment process to help student veterans restart their academic careers.
Michael Dakduk, executive director of nonprofit Student Veterans of America, said he's encouraged by the amount of progress he's seen in the way higher education deals with student veterans. Still, he said, more changes need to be made.
Student veterans face a particular challenge in that they have two sets of bureaucracy to navigate, while most college students only see one. Most students deal only with challenges of financial aid, registration and enrollment.
Student veterans face issues with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in addition to those other challenges.
Most campuses now have certifying officials to help student veterans work through their problems with getting their benefit paperwork processed. But anytime one set of administrative red tape meets another, it creates opportunities for paperwork issues, confusion and headaches.
“That's just an inevitable challenge,” he said. “There's been progress, but I think there's still a lot of work to be done.”