More Veterans Have Enrolled in College with Post-9/11 G.I. Bill

veteran colleg
Capt. Irvin Drummond, U.S. Army, studies at a computer 18 May 2007. (Photo by Chris Sanders, U.S. Army)

The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, which covers educational costs for veterans beyond tuition, has boosted college enrollment rates among veterans by 3 percentage points compared with the earlier G.I. Bill, finds a new study by NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. However, the increase in enrollment was much larger immediately after the bill’s adoption and has waned in recent years.

The study, published online in the journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, a journal of the American Educational Research Association, comes days after Congress passed a major expansion to the G.I. Bill, which – if signed into law – will provide additional educational benefits to veterans.

The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly known as the G.I. Bill, helped pay for college and other training for millions of World War II veterans. Since its inception, the G.I. Bill has been updated to continue providing educational benefits, with the most recent expansion being the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, or Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.

“The original G.I. Bill not only significantly improved the human capital in the United States after World War II, but also democratized American higher education and created a robust middle class. Education benefits provided by the bill allowed veterans to go back to college and obtain necessary knowledge and skills, while also serving as an important entry point back to civilian life,” said Liang Zhang, the study’s author and a professor of higher education at NYU Steinhardt.

The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, which took effect in August 2009, offers more generous educational benefits than the previous version of the bill. It covers full tuition and fees at in-state public schools (or up to a set amount for tuition and fees at private institutions), a monthly housing allowance, and up to $1,000 a year for books and supplies. All veterans who have served since September 2001 are eligible for the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, meaning that those who did not take advantage of benefits under the previous bill were retroactively eligible.

In this study, Zhang examined the impact of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill – including its monthly housing allowance and stipend to cover miscellaneous educational costs – on veterans’ college participation.

Zhang used 11 years of data (2005 to 2015) from the American Community Survey, which resulted in a sample of approximately 200,000 veterans who have served in the post-9/11 era. This sample enabled a comparison between data from before and after the 2009 adoption of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill in order to determine how veterans might have reacted differently to the bill over time.

Zhang found that the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill increased overall college enrollment by about 3 percentage points when compared with enrollment prior to the bill’s adoption. However, the effect was much larger immediately after the bill’s adoption (approximately 4 percentage points) and has waned in recent years (to about 2 percentage points), suggesting that part of the initial enrollment burst was due to the retroactive nature of the bill.

Despite the increase in enrollment, Zhang noted that the effect of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill is much smaller than the effects of typical financial aid programs, which have been shown to improve enrollment by about 3 to 6 percentage points for every $1,000 reduction in college costs.

In addition, Zhang examined how the bill affected college enrollment among veterans ranging from 20 to 60 years old, given that veterans typically follow a different educational trajectory than that of nonveterans. He found that the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill has had a consistent and positive impact on college enrollment among veterans of all ages, even among older veterans who are usually considered less likely to enroll in college.

“This suggests that older veterans may be more responsive to financial incentives, echoing previous research findings that older students are more responsive to financial aid than younger students,” Zhang said.

Finally, Zhang looked at the levels of existing educational attainment among veterans, since the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill can be used for a variety of educational and training programs, including both undergraduate and graduate education. He found consistent and positive enrollment effects across veterans with all levels of education, with those already holding master’s degrees taking the most advantage of the bill’s educational benefits.

Zhang concluded that it is both important to evaluate the effect of veterans’ programs on college enrollment, as well as to consider the social impact of the bill – which is broader and more profound than any college-related outcomes could possibly measure.

“While providing generous education benefits to veterans could ease the financial burden of going to college, research shows that veterans can face additional challenges associated with service-related injuries and disabilities, as well as being older students. Higher education institutions must continue to better understand and support this growing, yet potentially vulnerable student population, to best serve those who served the country,” said Zhang.

Teacher Racial Bias Matters More for Students of Color

English and math teachers underestimate the academic abilities of students of color, which in turn has an impact on students’ grades and academic expectations, finds a new study by NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.

The study, published online in the journal Social Science Research, builds on existing evidence of how teacher biases in the classroom affect students and adds a new layer of information about students of different ethnic and racial backgrounds.

Hua-Yu Sebastian Cherng

“When teachers underestimate their students’ academic abilities by perceiving that their class is too difficult for students, it matters – but it matters differently for different groups of students,” said Hua-Yu Sebastian Cherng, assistant professor of international education at NYU Steinhardt and author of the study.

Teachers’ belief in their students’ academic capabilities has long been understood to be a vital ingredient for student success and has been linked to students’ own beliefs in how far they will progress in school, their attitudes toward school, and their academic achievement.

“The process begins with a teacher who expects a student to succeed academically – this belief can shape a teacher’s behavior, such as what assignments are given, body language, and the time a teacher spends with a student. Students respond to these high expectations by internalizing them, which may boost their own academic expectations and performance,” said Cherng.

These teacher perceptions may be especially important for students of color, as a small body of research shows that when teachers have confidence in the academic abilities of students of color, they reap even greater benefits than do their White peers.

Using the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002, Cherng analyzed educational, demographic, and survey data from approximately 10,000 high school sophomores and their teachers. He first examined whether teachers have similar perceptions of the academic abilities of students belonging to different racial and ethnic groups after considering factors such as standardized test scores and homework completion.

Cherng then investigated whether teachers underestimating their students’ abilities – the beliefs that students are struggling in class when student test scores are average or higher – is associated with students’ own expectations and GPA. Student expectations were measured by how far high school seniors expected they would go in school – for instance, whether they would graduate from college or earn a graduate degree.

Consistent with stereotypes of race and academic abilities, both math and English teachers were more likely to perceive their class as too difficult for students of color compared to White students, even after controlling for standardized test scores, homework completion, and a host of other factors.

The greatest gap was found for Black students: more than twice the percentage of math (18 percent) and English (13 percent) teachers reported that their class is too difficult, compared to White students (8 percent of math teachers; 6 percent of English teachers). Gaps between Latino and White students were also sizeable (a 6 percent difference). A 4-percent gap between White and Asian American students on English teacher reports aligns with the “Model Minority” stereotype that Asian Americans excel in math but not English.

Teachers underestimating their students’ abilities had an impact on both students’ academic expectations as well as their GPAs.

“Based on my analysis, teachers underestimating their students’ abilities actually causes students to have lower academic expectations of themselves, meaning that they expected they would complete less school. This was particularly harmful among Black students,” Cherng said.

Cherng found a different story when looking at GPAs: while teacher underestimations were linked with lower GPAs, the relationship was weaker for Black students.

“It is possible that Black students anticipate that their teachers think less of them and work harder in class to prove them wrong, hence the less negative effect on their GPAs. Challenging teacher underestimations may be unique to Black students, who have a long history of resisting discrimination within schools,” Cherng said. “Regardless, teacher underestimations are harmful to Black youth.”

Cherng concluded that addressing these biases through better teacher preparation programs or professional development may help eliminate achievement differences and bolster the success of all students.

Engaging Fathers in Parenting Intervention Improves Outcomes for Both Kids and Fathers

A parenting program where fathers engage with their children through reading was found to boost the fathers’ parenting skills while also improving the preschoolers’ school readiness and behavior, finds a study led by NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.

“Unlike earlier research, our study finds that it is possible to engage fathers from low-income communities in parenting interventions, which benefits both the fathers and their children,” said Anil Chacko, associate professor of counseling psychology at NYU Steinhardt and the lead author of the study, published in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology.

Fathers play a significant role in the social, emotional, and behavioral development of children. However, working with fathers to improve their parenting — and, in turn, outcomes for their children — has been understudied, as most parenting research focuses on mothers. In addition, earlier studies of parenting interventions for fathers have issues with high rates of fathers dropping out of the studies.

This study evaluated the effects of Fathers Supporting Success in Preschoolers, an intervention that focuses on integrating parent training with shared book reading to improve outcomes among fathers and their preschool children.

Shared book reading is an interactive and dynamic activity in which an adult uses prompts and feedback to allow a child to become an active storyteller. It relies heavily on using pictures, and supports parents giving children praise and encouragement. Shared book reading fosters father-child interactions, but also aligns with a priority of early education programs to develop school readiness.

“Rather than a goal of increasing father involvement, which implies a deficit approach, a program that uses shared book reading targets a specific parenting skill set and represents a valued activity for parents and children,” Chacko said.

In the study, 126 low-income fathers and their preschool-aged children were recruited across three Head Start centers in New York City. The families, a majority of whom spoke Spanish, were randomly assigned to either participate in the program or were put on a waitlist (which acted as the control condition).

The short-term intervention included eight weekly sessions lasting 90 minutes each. In these sessions, small groups of fathers watched videos showing fathers reading with children but with exaggerated errors. The fathers then identified and, in small and large groups, discussed better approaches to these interactions. Fathers were then encouraged to practice the strategies they identified at home with their child during shared book reading.

The program sought to improve parenting behaviors such as establishing routines, encouraging child-centered time, using attention and incentives to promote good behavior, using distraction and ignoring to reduce attention-seeking behavior, and resorting to time-outs sparingly.

The study evaluated the effects of the program on parenting skills, child behavior and language, and outcomes for fathers, including stress and depression. These factors were measured before and immediately after participation in the program, and included both observations by the researchers, standardized assessments of language, and information reported by the fathers. Attendance data was also collected as a measure of engagement.

The researchers found that parenting behaviors, child behaviors, and language development of the children who participated in the program improved significantly relative to those on the wait-list.

More specifically, fathers reported improved discipline approaches and promotion of their children’s psychological growth. This held true in the researchers’ observations, who after the intervention, saw that fathers made fewer critical statements to their children and used more positive parenting behaviors like praise and affection. The researchers also measured a moderate effect on language outcomes among the children. Overall, the data suggest more than a 30 percent improvement in parenting and school readiness outcomes.

Importantly, the average attendance rate for the weekly sessions was 79 percent, which was substantially higher than past parenting programs for fathers.

“Unlike other parenting programs, fathers in this program were not recruited to work on parenting or reduce child behavior problems, but to learn — with other fathers — skills to support their children’s school readiness, which may remove stigma and support openness among fathers in supporting their children,” Chacko said. “The findings are particularly noteworthy given the study’s population of low-income, Spanish-speaking, immigrant fathers.”

The researchers noted that shared book reading may not be the best approach for all fathers and children, so interventions should be tailored to the preferences of communities and parents in order to increase the likelihood of success.

“Ultimately, we believe that developing a program that is both focused on the parent and child, and one that is not deficit-driven or focused on improving problematic parenting but is focusing on skill development, would be appealing and engaging for fathers,” Chacko said.

In addition to Chacko, study authors include Gregory Fabiano of the University of Buffalo, Greta Doctoroff of Yeshiva University, and Beverly Fortson of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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