Chairman Flores, Ranking Member Takano, and members of the subcommittee, I am writing on behalf of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU), our member institutions, their faculty and the nearly four million students who attend private sector institutions. Our institutions provide a full range of higher education programs to students seeking career-focused education. We provide short-term certificate programs and diploma programs, two-and-four-year associate and baccalaureate degree programs, as well as a small number of master’s and doctorate programs. We educate students for careers in over 200 occupational fields including information technology; allied health; automotive repair; business administration; commercial art; and culinary and hospitality management.
Since 2009, over one million veterans have used the Post-9/11 GI benefits to pay for their education. Private sector colleges and universities have educated more than 325,000. Private sector institutions continue to grow as the education choice for veterans because our schools offer focused academic delivery and flexible schedules, which veterans favor.
We understand the challenges that arise when our military men and women transition back to civilian life and enter into postsecondary education. Our military and veteran students are not the fresh-out-of-high school, first-time, full-time student living on campus and attending college thanks to the generosity of family. Our military and veteran students are like many of our new traditional students - working, with a spouse and children and paying for their education with money they have earned.
Servicemembers and veterans attend our institutions because we design courses to be relevant, concentrated, and suited to the personal goals of our students. This education foundation is of a particular benefit to military students and veterans seeking a promotion, advance in rank or supplementing skills attained during their service. This type of purposeful, tailored education ensures that veteran and military students nimbly move from the classroom onto their next academic or professional goal. The ability to offer courses on-base, online, and on the student’s schedule is of tremendous value. Because of our longer school days and year-round academic programming, our students can often complete an associate’s degree in 18 months or a bachelor’s degree in just over three years.
Private sector colleges and universities are providing skills that put Americans back to work. Today, in America, there is a very real skills gap that is impeding job creation and economic growth. Our institutions are working to bridge this gap by combining postsecondary education and career skills in ways that equip veteran students with workplace skills.
Of veteran graduates, 75 percent earned certificates and associates degrees while 25 percent earned bachelor’s and graduate degrees.
Forty percent of all the veteran graduates earned credentials in healthcare fields, one of the fastest growing industries in the country. These occupations range from medical, dental and veterinary assistants to nurses and technologists of various types with weighted average annual median salaries of $33,000 for certificate and associate degree holders to $56,000 for bachelor and graduate degree holders.
Another 20 percent of veteran graduates earned credentials in skilled trade programs, such as construction, maintenance and repair, and engineering technologies. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States will need more than 1 million additional workers to fill these jobs by 2020. The weighted average annual median salary for graduates earning their certificates and associate degrees in these fields was $44,000.
Ten percent of veteran graduates earned awards in computer and information programs like computer programming, computer graphics, computer systems networking, and information technology. The weighted average annual median salary is $57,000 for certificate and associate degree holders and $89,000 for bachelor and graduate degree holders. The US will need nearly 3 million additional computer and IT workers by 2020.
We want to work with you to provide our service members and veterans, particularly young combat veterans, with the tools and resources to make an informed, thoughtful decision about which educational opportunity will best prepare them for the workforce.
On behalf of APSCU, I welcome the opportunity to provide our views on legislation impacting private sector colleges and universities and military veterans enrolled at our institutions.
H.R. 2942: Having previously served on the VA Advisory Committee on Education, I recognize the value of VA advisory committees. The reestablishment of the Professional Certification and Licensure Committee of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) allows key stakeholders to make important recommendations to the Secretary which will assist the VA in its efforts to better serve our veteran students.
H.R. 3056, Warriors’ Peer-Outreach Pilot Program Act: The VA has recently expanded the Vet Success on Campus program to 94 sites nationwide. Outside of the government, the nonprofit group Student Veterans of America (SVA) has established over 900 campus-based veteran groups and is still growing. The American Legion, too, has created posts on several campuses to support student veterans. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) has created an outreach program where VFW posts engage and support student veterans in their communities. Finally, colleges and universities already utilize the VA work-study program to support student veterans. While we support the spirit of the bill, we believe there are other government and nongovernment programs that exist to provide peer-support and other similar services to veterans and we encourage Congress to review the existing efforts as it considers creating a similar program. Additionally, the legislation makes a glaring omission. As drafted, the legislation only provides for piloting a peer-outreach program at public and private nonprofit institutions ignoring the fact that private sector colleges and universities educate more than 325,000 military veterans, servicemembers, and their family members. If Congress wants to reach a broad group of students, it needs to include private sector colleges and universities in this endeavor.
H.R. 4151, Veterans Education Survey Act of 2014: We support gaining more information on the educational experiences of student veterans at postsecondary institutions. APSCU is committed to using strong data and evidence to strengthen our sector’s support of the military and veterans’ community and having good data will assist all institutions in their efforts to improve services to students.
Thank you for allowing APSCU to present our views on legislation impacting private sector colleges and universities and the military and veteran students we support. We welcome the opportunity to work with this subcommittee and members of Congress to support student veterans, student servicemembers, and their families.