This The New York Times article on special admissions programs for military veterans at elite colleges provides a good excuse for a four day review of the topic, one we have covered before at EphBlog. This is Day 2.

According to school administrators, there was one undergraduate veteran attending Princeton during the 2013-14 academic year, out of 5,244 undergraduates. Harvard had four among its roughly 6,700 undergraduates. Brown had 11 out of 6,182. Dartmouth, whose former president, James Wright, is an enlisted Marine Corps veteran who encourages veterans to continue their education during his visits to military hospitals, had 18 of 4,276.

Williams, I believe, has zero. (Corrections welcome!) Previous serious discussion of this topic five years ago.

Despite all the (deserved) grief that Wright used to take from our friends at Dartblog, I am still a fan, as I am of anyone who visits the wounded in our military hospitals.

But Wright/Dartmouth have been doing this for many years now. How well has the program worked? A dozen or more ex-military students have entered and then graduated from Dartmouth. Tell us about their experiences. How many failed to graduate? How many now think that the decision to go to Dartmouth was a mistake?

The fact that these schools don’t produce and/or make public such a report makes me suspicious about how well (or poorly) the program has worked.

In response to those numbers, organizations like the Posse Foundation have turned their attention to bringing more veterans to the nation’s colleges. The foundation was started in 1989 to help underrepresented students to enter top-tier schools. Two years ago, Catharine Bond Hill, the president of Vassar College, began working with the group to apply their model — which focuses on helping exceptional community college students gain admission to elite four-year colleges — to veterans.

EphBlog loves Cappy Hill ’76, but is Vassar, as an institution, better off when its president uses college resources to support her personal (and idiosyncratic?) moral views? There are many, many groups of people who are underrepresented at Vassar. Why all the resources devoted to veterans? Why not, say, victims of domestic violence? Or orphans? Or survivors of childhood cancer? Each of these groups would benefit from the resources that Cappy Hill is devoting toward veterans. Each would add a true diversity of experience to Vassar.

A wiser president would spend her time and resources to make Vassar a better college by increasing the quality of the student body, mainly by convincing at least some of the hundreds of students who turn down Vassar each year (in order to go to higher ranked liberal arts colleges like Williams and Amherst) to choose Vassar instead.

The Posse Foundation mandates that every member of a class attend a monthlong training seminar designed to prepare them for the rigors of full-time scholarship and to promote camaraderie among the members. Additionally, members must begin as first-year students, regardless of how many community college credits they have accrued.

The Posse Foundation might be the world’s most wonderful non-profit, but every institution is tempted to do things that are good for it, whether or not those things are good for its (purported) clients. How much “camaraderie” can there be among veterans who will soon attend a variety of colleges? I bet close to zero. But such a training program provides all sorts of empire-building possibilities for the Posse Foundation itself . . .

More importantly, would you advise a veteran who already had two years of college credits to start over again in Vassar instead of finishing up at his state university in just two years? Not me. At least, not until we had a thorough discussion about the costs and benefits of both choices.

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