Recently, the College decided to modify its policies on veteran admissions and to more actively recruit veterans. We at the Record fully support this decision. While the College does not actively prevent veterans from attending, it does not provide any online information for veterans who are prospective students or provide information about resources that would be available to veterans should they attend. This new initiative will provide more information about the College to veterans who wish to apply. The College will remove a $5000 cap on the financial aid that veterans can receive from the College through the Yellow Ribbon Program. While this cap was originally intended to prevent veterans from receiving too much financial aid, it is a confusing barrier as it misleadingly implies that the College gives less aid than it actually does.
We believe that recruiting veterans to the College would strengthen our community. Veterans have a unique perspective that is not currently represented on campus. If veterans were to add their experiences to the community both inside and outside the classroom, the College would benefit. Having the additional viewpoints of non-traditional students would help to push students outside their comfort zones – a valuable goal of a liberal arts education. Furthermore, the College offers an elite education that veterans would benefit from having access to.
If the administration really intends to recruit veterans, it will have to ensure that the College has all of the resources necessary to support non-traditional students. This might involve hiring a counselor at Psychological Services experienced in treating post-traumatic stress disorder, for example. We also encourage the College to create a transitional program for non-traditional students that provides support beyond orientation and First Days. We also strongly believe that the College cannot begin by admitting just one or two veterans per class year. The College might be a challenging space for veterans. Veterans attending the College would need a strong support network, and part of that support network would be fellow veterans. To that end, we think it’s very important that the College should begin this new initiative by admitting about five veterans per class year.
One thing we think the College should be aware of is that admitting veterans would require a meaningful examination of campus culture. Why are veterans not drawn to Williams in the first place, for example? How would first-year veterans fit into traditional Williams institutions like the entry system? In order to make the College more appealing to veterans, we need to assess what the College could do to make itself a more welcoming environment. We believe this could fit into a broader examination of how the College could better recruit and support other kinds of non-traditional students.
This initiative, with these concerns in mind, could be made easier if contextualized within the the Posse Foundation’s Veteran Program, which partners with colleges and universities to help them recruit veterans. While the Veteran Program is still a pilot program and is only currently partnering with Vassar, we at the Record believe that the College shares Posse’s goals and could benefit from participating in the organization. The College partners with organizations like QuestBridge to both recruit low-income students and support them once they are at the College. Joining the Posse Veteran Program would be a similar initiative. Posse would work as an information network for the College and would provide support for the College’s admissions counselors as they work to recruit veterans. We believe that Posse could provide significant help in training our admissions counselors to identify high-achieving qualified veterans and reach out to them. On the other side of the coin, Posse could help provide support and resources to veterans once they attend the College. Because we don’t have resources for veterans at present, having a support structure like Posse would be helpful in determining how to build those resources.
One part of the Posse pilot program that we hesitate to approve of is the requirement that veterans attend the College in a group of 10 students. We realize that in a class of 550 students at the College, admitting 10 veterans is a substantial percentage of that group. However, if the College is truly committed to having veterans attend and be successful here, they will require the support of fellow veterans, and the College could work with Posse to find the appropriate size community for this campus.
We realize there will be costs to the College from recruiting and supporting veterans, both financial and social. However, we feel that having the unique perspective of veterans at the College is worth that cost. Given that many of our peer institutions have found a way to incorporate veterans into their institutions, we should be able to find a workable way to do so as well.
The College has always enjoyed a rich history of students in the military. We think that veterans who attend the College in the future will make worthy contributions to that history.