Why is PAVE Needed?

Universities and community colleges are seeing a large influx of veterans due, in part, to the implementation of the post-9/11 GI Bill.  One year after the bill took effect in 2009, over half a million current and former service members had applied for eligibility certification (Carter, 2010) and just over 300,000 had used the benefits to enroll in higher education (White House, 2010). In November 2013, the VA released a statement indicating that they had approved GI Bill Benefits for the millionth beneficiary.

However, data suggests that student veterans face additional challenges in transitioning to the academic world. The average veteran has a gap of at least four to five years between high school and college, compared to the average freshman’s two to three months. Their deployment experiences and older age may also make it more difficult for them to connect with other incoming freshman, and greater social integration is associated with continuation in college studies. According to a RAND Corporation survey conducted with college students in November 2010, student veterans face the following challenges: 42% reported moderate or major problems finding like-minded peers or staff; 66% reported moderate or major problems financially supporting self or family; 56.0% reported moderate or major problems balancing coursework and other responsibilities; and 55% reported moderate or major problems coping with service related injury or disability. (RAND Corporation, “Military Veterans’ Experience Using the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Pursuing Postsecondary Education”, Steele, Salcedo, and Coley, November 2010).

Often veterans do not seek assistance with challenges they are facing because of the stigma associated with asking for help. Numerous studies on the effectiveness of peer-to-peer approaches have demonstrated that peers “who have been there” can be a credible source of support, and can help others overcome stigma issues, opening the door to improved well-being.

What is the PAVE Program?

PAVE is a peer support program that connects incoming student veterans with student veterans already on campus in order to help them navigate college life, identify challenges they face, refer them to appropriate resources on or off campus, and provide ongoing support toward their academic and personal goals.

PAVE is part of the University of Michigan Depression Center’s Military Support Programs and Networks (M-SPAN) suite of programs serving service members and veterans. The program is a collaboration between the University of Michigan Depression Center & Department of Psychiatry and Student Veterans of America. The PAVE Program is currently expanding to a select number of campuses across the country.

We are grateful to Bristol Myers-Squibb Foundation, Welcome Back Veterans, the Robert McCormick Foundation, and Major League Baseball Charities for the grant funding that made this program possible.

How does PAVE work?

The PAVE Program works by recruiting college campuses to create a peer support program specifically for the student veterans on their campus. PAVE collaborates with Veteran Service Coordinators at participating schools to recruit and train student veterans who have successfully transitioned from military to academia to be Peer Advisors. Peer Advisors work one-on-one with incoming student veterans to help them transition to campus life. They provide a source of support for other student veterans as well as help identify concerns and provide resource suggestions that fit their particular situation. The PAVE staff provides training and implementation support to Veteran Service Coordinators and Peer Advisors. PAVE tailors its program model for each campus according to the specific needs and culture of that campus. At some schools, the position of Team Leader was created to provide a platform for student veterans to work directly on managing the PAVE program on their campus by promoting the program, recruiting and managing Peer Advisors, and create awareness of veteran issues.

PAVE is currently fully operational on 12 campuses across the country. Thirty additional schools have been selected for a Fall 2016 launch of the program.  Visit our Partner Campuses page to see the list of the 30 new schools as well as the original 12.