COLLEGE STATION There are nearly one million veterans using the educational benefits provided to them through the G.I. Bill. According to the U.S. Census, only 25 percent of veterans 25 and older have a bachelor's degree.
Despite those low numbers, the student veteran population at Texas A&M is growing. The university works hard on making sure veterans have a support system in place.
"You move from a base in Hawaii to a base in West Texas, there's somebody there to greet you to say 'hey this is how we run things in west Texas.' Well, this is that base," explains Austin Howard. He's referring to the Veterans Resource and Support Center at Texas A&M.
As service men and women return home from war, many are going back to school. They bring with them a different outlook on life.
"Our perspective and outlook on the world are different. Doesn't mean wrong or right or indifferent," says Howard.
"I enjoy being in the classroom with 18, 19, 20 year old students who are naive and ignorant and not ignorant in stupid way, they haven't experienced anything yet," he continues.
Those students veterans bring real world knowledge to the classroom. And numbering over 600, that real world experience is growing. Veterans are drawn, in large part, to Texas A&M because of its deep military history.
"It's very culturally dependent, I would think. If you were at UT Austin or even UTEP which is right next to Fort Bliss in El Paso, or anywhere else in Texas, you're not going to have that military mentality," explains Howard. He says that students at Texas A&M are used to seeing members in the Corps of Cadets uniform.
"They see one where you're kinda older, there's different ribbons, they don't look the same as all the other corps kids, what's the deal? It brings up that question," he continues.
For students like Austin Howard, the Army is giving him the chance to get an education. It was the academics that drew Howard to A&M.
As more veterans return to college from serving, the need for organizations like the Veterans Resource and Support Center is growing.
Howard goes back to the Army after graduation. He plans on being a physicians assistant.