Penn State among institutions making commitment to graduating more veterans

The American Talent Initiative has made supporting veterans a primary mission

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State joins 42 other members of the American Talent Initiative (ATI) in recognizing the importance of enrolling and supporting more veterans.

ATI is a Bloomberg Philanthropies-supported collaboration between the Aspen Institute's College Excellence Program, Ithaka S+R and the members colleges and universities with graduation rates above 70%. ATI works to expand educational access to low- and moderate-income students, with the ultimate goal of graduating an additional 50,000 students from these economic groups by 2025.

ATI recently released a new report to support the efforts of higher education institutions to enroll, support and ultimately graduate more military veterans. It also highlights the efforts of the ATI Veterans Community of Practice group, of which Penn State is a member.

Penn State received recognition for recent efforts to remove barriers for and support veterans, including waiving the application fee for veterans, reservists and active-duty service members. Currently, there are more than 5,600 Penn State students who have a direct military tie as a service member, veteran or military dependent, across all of the University’s campuses, including Penn State World Campus.

Last November, the University cut the ribbon on a 6,300-square-foot, $4 million Student Veteran Center at the University Park campus. This is the new home for the Office of Veterans Programs, which helps students navigate their military benefits and provides peer-to-peer counseling, and the Office of Veterans Affairs and Services, which provides leadership in coordinating veteran and military service member programs across all of Penn State.

“Not only is the student veteran population at Penn State a diverse one from the perspective of race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, thought and life experience but also a large part of this population are students who are the first ones from their immediate family to attend college,” said Eugene McFeely, senior director for Veterans Affairs and Services at Penn State. “Veterans Affairs benefits and programs like ATI open all kinds of doors for a group of young Americans who would not have had opportunities like being able to attend and study at a university. It puts them on a different path in life.”

According to ATI, student veterans enhance campus diversity and are more likely to be Black or African-American, slightly less likely to be white and slightly more likely to be Hispanic or Latinx. ATI also reports that student veterans earn a 3.34 GPA on average compared to an average GPA of 2.94 among non-veteran peers. Veterans are about one and a half times more likely to earn their postsecondary degree compared to adult learners overall.

ATI’s larger mission is to increase the graduation rate of Pell grant-eligible students. Nearly 39% of student veterans are Pell-eligible, well above the average of Pell enrollment at colleges and universities with high graduation rates. Veterans are also able to make use of G.I. Bill benefits, which help to cover the majority of costs related to higher education.

“Penn State, through its online World Campus and 20 campuses offering residential instruction, offers many flexible and seamless pathways to an undergraduate degree,” said Rob Pangborn, vice president and dean for Undergraduate Education.

Penn State Office of Undergraduate Education is the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at

Last Updated April 15, 2021