College Student Veterans: Examining the Effect of Military Service on Sense of Belonging
Sense of belonging is a prominent part of military culture. Veterans often describe missing the camaraderie they experienced while serving. This perception is no less an important component of student success. The literature is replete with studies of traditional and other non-traditional populations’ perceptions on college campuses. Given the ever-growing size of the student veteran population, there is a corresponding increase in the importance of understanding the factors that influence sense of belonging among college student veterans.
The present study contributes to the literature on student veteran perceptions by utilizing a quantitative methodology to explore the latent constructs which impact sense of belonging as well as the predictability of the variables contained within those constructs. Using data collected via a survey instrument designed and administered by the institution’s office of veteran and military affairs, the analysis targeted several variables associated with the measurement and predictability of sense of belonging among college student veterans. The investigation evaluated demographic and psychometric scales to determine which latent constructs emerge from variable groupings, the predictability of individual variables on the perception of sense of belonging, and the degree which student veterans perceive that they belong on campus.
The results indicated that the student veterans in this study are older, have families, work, do not live close to campus, and are mostly first-generation college students. Additionally, they have a slightly positive sense of belonging. Five of the six latent constructs that emerged from the exploratory factor analysis were significant predictors of sense of belonging, with validation factors accounting for the vast majority of the variance of the dependent variable. Finally, military service characteristics variables did not significantly affect the predictability of the emergent constructs, leading to the revised conceptual framework which treats military service as not a construct in and of itself, but rather the context that the constructs exist within.