Date October 17, 2023
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Brown doubles enrollment of undergraduate U.S. military veterans, permanently funds full scholarships

A year ahead of schedule, the University has increased student veteran enrollment and exceeded its fundraising goal, cementing a future that supports veterans from all income levels and U.S. military backgrounds.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University has marked a set of major milestones in its effort to expand support for U.S. military veterans: welcoming its largest-ever cohort of new undergraduate student veterans; doubling the total enrollment of those students one year ahead of schedule; and surpassing an ambitious $25 million fundraising goal to permanently fund full scholarships for current and future generations of undergraduate student veterans.

The success stems from a sweeping initiative launched on Veterans Day in November 2019, which expanded recruiting efforts, increased financial support and removed barriers to enable more military veterans to achieve a Brown undergraduate education.

“Turning Brown into an affordable choice and a supportive educational environment for a broader segment of our nation’s extraordinary, courageous veterans not only honors their service, but also enhances the education of all Brown students who benefit from veterans’ perspectives and experiences,” said Brown University President Christina H. Paxson. “The generous donors who supported the veterans initiative truly understand the importance of building a robust financial aid program and boosting support for U.S. military veterans, who are leaders in our community and the nation.”

The affordability and accessibility are critical, and so is the holistic support student veterans receive at Brown so they can thrive and succeed while they’re here.

Joseph P. Healey Donor
Joseph Healey

Notable among those donors is Joseph P. Healey, who made a transformational gift in 2020 to help propel Brown toward successfully raising $25 million in endowment, which now ensures the ability to admit student veterans through a need-blind admissions process and offer full financial support on a long-term basis. Healey is a U.S. Army veteran with strong family ties to Brown, and co-founder of the investment management firm HealthCor.

As he reflected on the significance of achieving the veterans initiative goals, he was reminded of his personal journey growing up in a low-income, single-parent household in Rhode Island, and the ways that his military service and access to affordable, quality education changed the course of his life.

“The affordability and accessibility are critical, and so is the holistic support student veterans receive at Brown so they can thrive and succeed while they’re here,” Healey said. “When I think of all the great work Brown has done to promote student diversity, I think student veterans are an important piece of that — they add a different perspective and other students will learn from them.

“As a patriot, I can’t think of a better cause to support,” said Healey, who lives in Narragansett.

Moving forward, the enduring legacy of the support from Healey and other generous donors ensures that financial considerations do not prevent talented veterans who qualify for admission from choosing Brown — veterans like Robert Murray, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years and graduated in May 2023.

“When I got into Brown, I was initially a little terrified because tuition would have exhausted the G.I. Bill quickly,” Murray recalled. But when he learned that Brown would fully cover costs, it was a game changer.

“As veterans, we have a lot of other responsibilities and things going on,” Murray said. “Not having to deal with the finances allowed me to not work and focus on school, which would have been difficult to do otherwise as someone in my 30s. It was huge.”

Fulfilling a promise to student veterans

When the 2023-24 academic year started in September, the University enrolled 22 new undergraduate veterans, who joined returning students to create a total population of 49 undergraduate student veterans. That success eclipsed a year early Brown’s goal to enroll 42 undergraduate student veterans by Fall 2024, which would have doubled the number of veterans from 2019-20 when the initiative was launched.

A wide range of efforts contributed, including new partnerships with organizations like Service to School to expand recruitment; the move to considering veterans on a need-blind basis, eliminating from admission decisions any consideration of an applicant’s ability to pay tuition; a veteran-specific application; and making the submission of standardized test scores optional.

Student veterans are at a different stage of their lives than most undergraduates and often face unique challenges in completing their degrees, including financial barriers, family responsibilities, and physical and mental health concerns.

Christian “Mac” Manning Director, Office of Military-Affiliated Students at Brown University
Mac Manning

Each of those measures has helped to welcome a thriving student military population to campus, according to Christian “Mac” Manning, director of Brown’s Office of Military-Affiliated Students.

“Student veterans are at a different stage of their lives than most undergraduates and often face unique challenges in completing their degrees, including financial barriers, family responsibilities, and physical and mental health concerns,” Manning said. “It’s not always easy to maximize your educational experience as a service member, so with the fundraising effort and the veterans initiative, our student veterans at Brown are getting the best benefits possible, and subsequently, the best experience possible.”

Sophomore Jessica Stewart, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2012 to 2017, dreamed of a Brown education, but the admissions process was an obstacle until the University removed the SAT requirement for veterans. That move eliminated a barrier faced by many veterans, given that most enter the application pool years after having completed high school, when standardized tests are typically taken.

“I loved Brown’s view on education and the opportunity to explore different classes and create your own program of study, but they required an SAT score,” said Stewart, who is from Reno, Nevada. “It was great for me when they removed the SAT requirement.”

In addition to the reimagined admissions process, Brown has added more resources and a full-time program coordinator to the Office of Military-Affiliated Students, providing the office with more capacity to offer military-affiliated students a range of support, from peer advising and a veteran-specific orientation, to a campus veterans lounge and opportunities to engage with Brown alumni who are military veterans.

For Brown junior Stephanie Martinez, a U.S. Navy veteran from Chicago who has post-traumatic stress disorder, all of the support rooted in the veterans initiative has made her college career at Brown possible.

“I feel very supported academically, and my advisers and professors have all been extremely understanding when I’ve had health issues,” said Martinez, who is concentrating in international and public affairs. “All of the financial support takes off a burden. Especially dealing with my stress and anxiety, it helps me be at ease and be able to really focus on my schoolwork.”

Brown’s holistic support for veterans — including help with navigating military benefits — proved indispensable for sophomore Terren Wise, who served nearly nine years in the U.S. Navy before enrolling at Brown. Earlier this year, when his G.I. Bill payment was delayed, he turned to the University for help.

“Until the G.I. Bill came through, Brown covered me for my tuition, my books, my food,” said Wise, who is planning to concentrate in physics. “They were able to talk to the Department of Veterans Affairs and help get me reconnected to my benefits… If it wasn’t for the veterans initiative, I wouldn’t have had money to eat.”

That’s the kind of support that military veterans deserve, Manning said. He noted that Brown’s undergraduate student veteran population boasts a 99% graduation rate, which he attributes to the talent and dedication of the students and the support and access to services that Brown provides. He said the growing population of student veterans also benefit the entire Brown community.

“Many of our traditional undergraduates have never met a veteran in their lives,” Manning said. “Now, they are gaining relationships with veterans in their classrooms and getting a sense of who service members are.”

Stewart likes being part of the larger Brown community while also accessing the built-in support of fellow student veterans she can relate to and the Office of Military-Affiliated Students, which helps veterans “feel like we belong.” Plus, the holistic financial resources are invaluable: “This gives me the opportunity to attend Brown without financial worry,” she said.

Honoring veterans’ service

All told, the full cost of a Brown education for undergraduate student veterans is covered by a combination of Post-9/11 G.I. Bill educational benefits, Brown’s Yellow Ribbon scholarship funds and matching funds from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs — fully eliminating all out-of-pocket costs toward tuition and fees, and even housing. Now permanently funded, the increased financial support has replaced all family contributions with scholarship aid for undergraduate veterans admitted through the regular admissions process and for veterans enrolled through Brown’s Resumed Undergraduate Education program, which also welcomes many military veterans to campus.

Hand holding a patch
Veteran Katie Yetter, a member of Brown's Class of 2022, holds a patch she earned as a Marine Corps fighter aircraft safety equipment mechanic.

To date, the University has raised more than $28.5 million for the initiative, surpassing its $25 million fundraising goal, as part of the $4 billion BrownTogether campaign, the most ambitious fundraising effort in Brown’s history. Brown alumna and BrownTogether campaign co-chair Joan Wernig Sorensen, who chaired fundraising efforts for the veterans initiative, said she is proud of the community’s resounding response to the call for enduring support for student veterans.

“The significant progress we have made toward welcoming more student veterans to Brown is a vital aspect of cultivating a dynamic and inclusive student body,” Wernig Sorensen said. “These students contribute to the University’s learning environment in myriad ways, putting their leadership skills and thoughtful engagement to work across campus, from Brown’s classrooms and laboratories to its athletic fields and performance venues.”

Murray, the veteran who graduated in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in history, moved to the Washington, D.C., area over the summer where he started a job with Deloitte working in military contracts, an opportunity he secured with support from the Center for Career Exploration at Brown. He feels worlds away from his younger self — a veteran with a high school diploma who struggled to get ahead in his career.

“Brown kind of changed the whole trajectory of what my plan in life had been,” Murray said. “It’s been great.”