Brown and other institutions of higher education often label student diversity as essential to the college experience and aim to attract students from diverse paths. But despite attempts by Brown and its peer institutions to increase veteran enrollment, veteran representation at elite universities remains small. Veteran underrepresentation is a distinct loss for the University and for the nation’s service members. To truly be diverse, Brown must boost veteran enrollment through admissions and addressing a culture that stigmatizes the military.
Only six veterans are enrolled at Brown, with similarly low numbers at peer institutions: Princeton only boasts one. These figures are particularly unnerving because of the presence of the G.I. Bill, through which the government helps fund veterans’ college tuition. Since its inception, the law has helped veterans attend selective schools. Before the events of 9/11, over 10 million veterans had attended college through the provisions of the G.I. Bill. About 817,000 veterans have used the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, the most current version of the bill. Yet veterans remain underrepresented at selective schools.
Funding is not the issue, then — cultural factors deter veteran enrollment. Brown participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which provides more federal aid than the G.I. Bill alone does. But veterans’ apprehension that top institutions are beyond their reach can deter their educational ambitions.
And veterans often perceive cultural differences from Brown students themselves. In an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, one veteran attending Brown said that among her peer group of veterans, “we just all had this impression that they (the Brown community) hated the military.”
Encouraging veteran enrollment would increase veteran Brunonians’ sense of belonging and benefit Brown as a whole. James Wright, president emeritus of Dartmouth, has urged selective schools to group veterans with other underrepresented groups, like racial minorities or first-generation college students. If universities improve avenues to matriculation, veterans will be likelier to pursue elite educations. Similarly, Dean of Admission Jim Miller ’73 told the Chronicle the push for veteran enrollment is like the focus on first-generation college students. Both groups, Miller said, are “cohorts of people that ought to have access to these places.”
Brown has worked to boost veteran matriculation, but those efforts leave much to be desired. As Miller told the Chronicle, “our own veterans have pointed it out to us on occasion that we haven’t been as aggressive as we should be.” Timid approaches to sustaining a truly diverse undergraduate body will not satisfy. Last October, the Undergraduate Veterans Subcommittee of the Diversity Advisory Board issued a report on the University’s efforts, The Herald reported at the time. The report included four suggestions: building a “critical mass” of veterans, recognizing the merits of service, developing greater support systems and improving campus attitude toward veterans.
Though all merit consideration, we, as a student body, should take the last to heart. As Brown students, we take pride in our diversity but simultaneously suffer from homogeneous viewpoints. We should welcome student veterans, who have taken a different path to Brown, and we should urge the University to continue improving veteran support. Lauren Rouse ’15, an Air Force Reserve Officer, told The Herald last semester, “Though there’s no anti-military sentiment on campus, the silence can be very negative. If something isn’t talked about or seen, it can feel like you don’t want to be seen.” Addressing this is essential — no portion of our community should feel overlooked.
Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editor, Daniel Jeon, and its members, Georgia Angell, Sam Choi, Nick Morley and Rachel Occhiogrosso. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.