Elite colleges admit few veterans

When Princeton undergraduates discuss history, political science or foreign policy, they won’t hear the views of a classmate who’s fought in Iraq or Afghanistan, writes Wick Sloane on Inside Higher Ed. Not a single Princeton undergrad is a veteran. The same is true at Williams College, labeled the best liberal arts college by U.S. News. Harvard enrolls only two veterans; Yale has another two.

Sloane teaches “young men with canes” at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, which enrolls 367 veterans. He proposes that elite colleges admit as many veterans to undergraduate programs as they admit varsity football players.

About Joanne


  1. The GI Bill benefits don’t go very far at elite colleges. The veterans who would academically qualify for an Ivy caliber school are much more likely to attend one of the service academies as they’re free.

    If the Ivies truly want to recruit veterans, they should set up specific scholarships for them.

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    The service academies are free, if you can get in, and require an additional number of years of service. I presume that all the veterans who want to do that have tried, some making it, some not.
    It would be interesting to know of the Ivies actively avoid enrolling veterans or if there are insufficient vets with the proper credentials. Those who would have qualified as high school grads probably went to college before serving and don’t need another BA/BS. Those who wouldn’t have qualified as high school grads probably still don’t.
    Seems like we need a quota for diversity and a critical mass.
    Division 1 schools might have a hundred guys on the football team, the majority functioning as tackling dummies for the guys who actually play ball on Saturday. Might be hard to find that many veterans who want to lower themselves by attending the Ivies.

  3. Those who would have qualified as high school grads probably went to college before serving and don’t need another BA/BS. Those who wouldn’t have qualified as high school grads probably still don’t.”

    This wasn’t my observation during the 5 years I spent as an Army wife. I knew plenty of guys who were extremely bright but who told stories of having been very immature in high school. After enlisting in the Army, they got the discipline needed to finally live up to their academic potential. These prior service West Point grads struck me as no less intelligent than my DH, who attended Stanford right out of high school. The difference was that they primarily came from working-class backgrounds, often in very rural or inner city areas. Whereas my DH grew up middle-class and attended a suburban Catholic prep school.

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    CrimsonWife. As I said, the presumption is that all the guys who want to go to service academies have done so, or tried.
    We’re talking about the other guys.

  5. Cardinal Fang says:

    Do we know anything about how many veterans have applied to Ivies and been rejected? Or about how qualified those applicants are, if there are a significant number?

  6. Cardinal Fang says:

    Columbia University School of General Studies: http://www.gs.columbia.edu/

    Columbia is of course an Ivy.

  7. My students who are from military families/want to go into the armed forced and academically sharp all go to the military academies. I have many former students at West Point and the Air Force Academy. Calls from our senator will be coming soon for the current batch.

  8. From my experience in NROTC at Cornell, we did actually have a few veterans each year in our program. At least on the Navy side, they all were engineering or science majors.
    Perhaps a large portion of veterans use the skills they learned in the military to pursue technical majors, which would direct them away from elite liberal arts schools and towards schools that focus on more practical skill-based majors.

  9. superdestroyer says:

    Princeton and Williams are the type of schools where the admissions office wants all of the freshmen to be 18y/o, single, living in a dorm, and being full time students.
    Such schools do not lend themselves to 22+ y/o veterans who are not interested in the freshmen dorm or joining a fraternity/sorority.

  10. Thats sad. And a shame on those schools. Out here in Southern California, from what I have read and seen, many of the state institutions go out of their way to help enroll our veterans and help them deal with the financing and transitions back to “civilian” life. And, no matter where a veteran goes to college, it is not easy sitting in a classroom with shallow people younger than you who spend their time texting their friends or surfing the web…..”rights” you fought to protect.

  11. Roger Sweeny says:

    This story is impossible. Ivy League schools value diversity in all its forms.

  12. Wick Sloane says:

    The statement is correct, above, that Williams wants 18 yr olds and that the place may not be very friendly for non-traditional students. My objective is to swap the chicken and the egg. In a time of war, I think that such colleges should reevaluate. What would it take to be friendly to veterans? Dartmouth has done just this.

    Also, above, the new GI Bill does provide for private college tuitions, with the cooperation of those colleges. The formula varies with length of service. In short, a veterans are eligible for the in-state tuition at the state where they go to school. Then, they receive a living allowance. In Massachusetts, that’s about $1,200 a month. Under the new GI Bill, the veterans have all of that to apply to going to, say, Princeton. As noted above, there is still a gap in cost. This is where the Yellow Ribbon program comes in. The federal Department of Veterans Affairs will fund half the gap if the college will fund the other half.

    The Ivies, and Williams, have every advantage. They can have whatever class composition they choose. One of my veteran students from Bunker Hill Community College is now at Dartmouth. He’s doing just fine.

    The Ivies and Williams have exactly as many veterans as they want to have. They have every right to make that choice. I just wish that decision would shift some of the federal aid those colleges receives to the colleges that do support veterans.

    Wick Sloane

  13. Roger–you’re using the sarcasm font, right? I’d say that Yale and Harvard would like to enroll combat veterans, but darn the luck! children of movie stars are just so much better prepared.

  14. J. D. Salinger says:

    Harvard would like to enroll combat veterans, but darn the luck! children of movie stars are just so much better prepared.

    Shut up.

  15. superdestroyer says:

    My guess is that if one took the U.S.News top 100 universities and ranked them by number of veterans that they would still be in the same order. The top100 schools and the top100 liberal arts schools are competing for the18 y/o college track high school students. Schools will compete a little on diversity but many of the schools in the top 100 are overly asians, short in whites and with just enough blacks and Hispanics to fill the quota.

    The last thing those schools want is a 23 y/o who had done something other than be a student.

  16. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Without painting with too broad a brush, there is a certain narcissism to be found throughout a university, wherein the faculty and administration see their egos fulfilled by “shaping” young men and women, and those infected with this tend to prefer pliable but bright minds upon which to work.

    Combat veterans tend not to have the sort of starry-eyed respect for authority that students do: they tend to demand a certain amount of competence in their authority figures.

  17. Richard Aubrey says:

    I haven’t worn a uniform in nearly forty years. My wife was an adjunct at a pretty good school. I got to know some of her colleagues.
    I would not say that as many as one of the full-time professors was a complete person. Maybe it was demanding common sense and competence, as you say.

    My wife switched to high school and a month or so after that, I ran into her college department chairman. He asked how she was doing. Culture shock, I said. He nodded in sympathy. Her colleagues are uniformly friendly and helpful, says I. How on earth that got back to the college department I’ll never know.

    I knew some good profs when I was in college, but what I knew was that they had a good grasp of the material and presented it well. Whether they were nutcases in the rest of their lives was unknown, mostly.

  18. “Shut up.”

    Give us one good reason why she should.