Creating a home for student veterans

Brown has taken several steps toward building a more welcoming and supportive environment for student veterans. But none has been more important than boosting the amount of financial aid available to those who have served their country with honor.

When Katie Yetter ’22 was young, she told her father she had a dream about attending an Ivy League school. But, as a high school senior, she found herself excited by the idea of joining the U.S. Marine Corps. 

“I wanted to do something different and something where I knew I was making a difference,” she says. 

Katie Yetter holding her Brown acceptance letter
Katie Yetter ’22

Yetter spent her entire enlistment with the same Marine Corps aircraft squadron as a mechanic, where she viewed those in her immediate work center as a family—a tight-knit community offering support and opportunities for growth.

Now a junior concentrating in cognitive neuroscience at Brown, she has found a similar sense of kinship on College Hill as part of the University’s burgeoning student-veteran community.

“When I got into Brown, I realized that I was finally going to be able to take the next step toward my future career,” she says. “It was terrifying, but knowing that I was going to be a part of the Resumed Undergraduate Education (RUE) program was very comforting. I knew that I would be joined with other students who, even if they weren’t in the military, understand what it’s like to not want to go right to college after high school.”

Student veterans who are more than six years removed from high school apply to Brown through the RUE program. In 2014, the University established the Office of Military Affiliated Students (OMAS) to strengthen the support for veterans looking to transition into higher education. Whether they applied to the RUE program or had credits to transfer from previous college stints, student veterans could rely on OMAS for guidance through the admission process and information about financial aid resources, career development, and community-building activities.

Three years after the establishment of OMAS, a group of alumni and parents launched the Brown University Veterans Alumni Council (BUVAC) to support activities and programming for student veterans on campus. The Council’s mentorship program pairs military students with Brown alumni veterans or current service members.

“It’s amazing how many individuals in Brown’s community who have no military connection reach out to be allies to our students,” says Kimberly Millette, OMAS program director and a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. “As the number of veterans grows on campus, we are working to ensure they feel like they are prepared for their classes and for life at Brown.”

“ I looked at Brown and realized I would be able to study what I wanted in the way I wanted. It’s been a dream come true. ”

Maxx Cummings ’21 U.S. Air Force veteran

Expanding financial aid for veterans

Although academic excellence and strong on-campus support for veterans are essential pieces of the puzzle, financial aid is often the determining factor for student veterans in choosing to attend Brown. 

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would go to a school like Brown,” says Maxx Cummings ’21, who spent four years in the Air Force as a firefighter. “Leaving the military, I got into another school and I thought that was a huge accomplishment for me. But, the financial aid was not what I thought it would be. I looked at Brown and realized I would be able to study what I wanted in the way I wanted. It’s been a dream come true.” 

To address the financial needs of prospective student veterans, President Christina H. Paxson announced the University’s intention to raise a $25 million endowment for veterans financial aid at last year’s Veterans Day Ceremony. The fundraising effort is part of a comprehensive plan to double the number of student veterans at Brown by 2024. Just a year later, Brown has added 17 more student veterans and been recognized by U.S. News and World Report as the third best national university for veterans support. 

“Brown has one of the highest Yellow Ribbon matches of our peers, and we are one of the few schools that allow scholarships to replace family contributions for veterans,” says Dean of Financial Aid Jim Tilton. “The goal of this initiative is to really maximize the University’s resources and the benefits available to student veterans to minimize their overall cost of attending Brown.”

The initiative received an incredible boost this fall, when Joseph P. Healey P’22, P’24—a U.S. Army veteran—made a gift of $20 million, half of which will create a permanent endowment for veterans while the remainder will establish a scholarship for the wider RUE program.

“At my core, I believe that service to your country is truly one of the highest callings that there is,” said Healey during Brown’s virtual 2020 Veterans Day Ceremony, where the gift was officially announced. “My hope is that this gift will open the doors of higher education to student veterans and students exploring education later in life, who didn’t think a Brown education was even possible.”

“ Brown’s student veterans have so much to offer the world. Providing them with the resources and support necessary to take the next step in their careers is a wonderful way to honor their service. ”

Kimberly Millette OMAS Program Director

Creating pathways to success

Although many student veterans did not take a direct route from high school to college, Brown wants to ensure they can take advantage of the same experiences as all undergraduates. Removing financial constraints opens doors to opportunities they may not have considered possible.

“Brown's financial aid policies have allowed me to focus on fields I truly find interesting rather than being hyper focused on student loan debt or feeling pressure to take an internship or job with a higher starting salary,” says Conall Finn ’22, a veteran of the U.S. Army who is concentrating in economics. 

The summer after his first year on College Hill, Finn received a BrownConnect LINK award, which enabled him to take an unpaid internship on Capitol Hill. The experience helped him refine his professional interests. “The generous aid I received during the school year gave me an extra level of security, knowing I didn't need to earn a significant amount of money over the summer to avoid loans.”  

Financial assistance made it possible for Yetter to take a Wintersession course called “HIV in Diverse Settings: Focus on Israel” taught by Professor of Medicine Rami Kantor. The course concluded with a trip to Israel, a first-hand experience that mixed her interest in biology with a new sociological perspective.

“Brown’s student veterans have so much to offer the world,” says Millette. “Providing them with the resources and support necessary to take the next step in their careers is a wonderful way to honor their service.”

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