The young men and women who defend America’s freedom are often overlooked as a segment of America’s college students. Any report of increased attention to their academic success is heartening news.

Paul Fain of Inside Higher Ed reports.

Do Veterans Graduate?

ORLANDO, Fla. — Relatively little is known about the academic performance of student veterans, a growing and politically important segment of American higher education. But graduation and retention rate data may be on the way, thanks to a new agreement between the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Student Clearinghouse.

Roughly 2 million veterans are eligible for federal educational benefits aimed at them or their families. But Washington’s severe budget problems mean that even the Post-9/11 GI Bill may not be immune from budget cuts. As a result, veterans and their advocates are looking to demonstrate that those benefits are paying dividends.

That quest is complicated by policy battles over for-profit institutions, some of which enroll large numbers of veterans. Completion rates for student veterans at for-profits could influence that debate, and policies aimed at protecting this group of students have a chance of actually getting passed. For example, Congress last month approved a bill that would require colleges to be more open about how they serve veterans.

Graduation data on veterans is spotty at best. And most colleges do a poor job of tracking student veterans, although many are improving on that front.

The clearinghouse is seeking to help fill in the gaps. The nonprofit group is well-suited to the task, and has emerged as a go-to source on graduation rates. It conducts verification and research services for its 3,300 member colleges, which gives it access to data on 94 percent of students at all types of institutions, except for those that do not participate in federal financial aid. The group’s research center calls its database “near-census national coverage.”