Implementation of the administrative policies and procedures of the post 9/11 GI bill: An instrumental case study analysis of community college veterans affairs administrators
Bellvin, Bennie L.
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ABSTRACT The Post-9/11 GI Bill is an education benefit for veteran students that was derived from the original GI Bill (1944). This bill is the most comprehensive GI Bill to date as the provisions of the bill offer veteran students, who meet the eligibility requirements, a tuition-free education at a higher education institution in addition to funding books and living expenses through stipends. Veteran benefits have been listed as one of the top 10 issues for higher education by Hurley, Harnisch, and Parker (2015) of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities based on the expected influx of veteran students utilizing the Post-9/11 GI Bill, as a massive amount of veterans returned home from Iraq and Afganistan wars and integrated themselves back into society (Green & Hayden, 2013; Howard, 2009; Pending Montgomery GI Bill Legislation, 2008). As a result of the way that the Post-9/11 GI Bill policy is written, stakeholders, such as higher education administrators, veteran students, and federal and state lawmakers, routinely encounter challenges pertaining to veteran benefits, such as delayed payments, erroneous payments, and overpayments, resulting from an inefficient allocation tracking system, convoluted usage procedures, and misuse of the Post-9/11 GI Bill (Gonzalez, Miller, Buryk, & Wenger, 2015; Steele, Salcedo, & Coley, 2010). The administrative policy of the Post-9/11 GI Bill has been updated numerous times to overcome the challenges noted above, yet campus veterans affairs administrators’ input has not been solicited by policymakers, according to Lum (2009) and Steele et al. (2010). These challenges have created an extra burden on campus veterans affairs administrators who attempt to assist veteran students in navigating the procedures of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and are contributing factors in veteran enrollment status and persistence (Lum, 2009; Steele et al., 2010). The purpose of this study was to explore community college campus veterans affairs experiences and perceptions of the administrative process of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for providing education benefits to veterans through the Post-9/11 GI Bill. More specifically, this study explored the perceptions of and experiences with campus veterans affairs administrators to gain their perspectives on the specific guidelines, in relation to the practice of processing education claims within the administrative process and how they perceive their role in Post-9/11 GI Bill implementation. A qualitative instrumental case study design was used to address the four research questions that guided this study. This study was framed by a conceptual framework based on the policy diffusion model. Ten administrators from three veterans affairs offices of a multi-campus community college district in a large metropolitan city in Southeast Texas were interviewed. Additionally, data were collected for this study from field notes, reflexive journaling, and documents. The data analysis was accomplished by comparing data and coding them to create emerging themes, and trustworthiness was incorporated into the research process. The results of this study illustrate that the participants perceived that the Post-9/11 GI Bill policy must be enhanced to overcome the administrative policy lapses that create hardship for veteran students and barriers for administrators to employ the policy. As campus veterans affairs administrators, participants serve in the roles of VA, certifying officials advisors, coordinators, education planners, and program managers. Other results from this study included that campus veteran affairs administrators in this study identified benefits and challenges of implementing the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and community college in this study supported the Post-9/11 GI Bill policy despite direct conflict with institution policies. The findings of this study suggest several implications for higher education practice, including the need to mandate Post-9/11 GI Bill education for veteran students and modifying the administrative policy to guard veteran students against assuming a financial burden that could negatively impact their persistence. Failure of the VA to modify the current administrative policy may result in the Post-9/11 GI Bill becoming too cumbersome for campus veterans affairs administrators to process and an unbearable financial hardship for veteran students. The results of this study suggest that soliciting and incorporating campus veterans affairs administrators’ input is a strategy to increase student retention and graduation rates.