Marlboro Re-Engages with Military Veterans

As President Kevin, trustees, faculty, and staff at Marlboro College have wrestled with the question of how to boost enrollment, one student constituency has been notably absent: military veterans. That is about to change, thanks to the support of two generous donors. 

The history of Marlboro’s founding is a story of veterans returning from World War II, eager to pursue their education at a college that transcends traditional models. Thanks to the GI Bill, 35 of the college’s original 50 students were veterans (pictured, right). They helped to renovate a cluster of farm buildings into classrooms and dorms, and indelibly shaped Marlboro’s uniquely self-directed, self-governed, and self-reliant identity. Veterans have continued to attend Marlboro over the decades, but not in the same numbers—from 2010 to 2015, only six veterans enrolled.

The question of how to attract veterans to a small, rural campus without a strong military presence has been compicated, but for Marlboro the path forward may be by finding the right partner. Enter an anonymous foundation that has worked with community colleges throughout the country to improve veteran outreach and retention. With their guidance, Marlboro developed a pilot plan to attract military veterans, and earlier this year the foundation agreed to fund the program with a generous $100,000 grant, matched by another individual trustee.

“With Marlboro’s renewed focus on service and citizenship, the college’s engagement with veterans comes at an opportune time,” said Richard Glezjer, dean of faculty, part of the team leading these engagement efforts. “We know that the diverse experiences and perspectives of military vets will enrich our community.”

Instead of trying to directly recruit veterans into a four-year college program, the plan is to offer a non-matriculated, year-long program based around an extended writing intensive. This will be similar to the college’s current summer writing intensive, which is geared toward members of the military and their families. Veterans with an interest in writing will be able to hone their craft, while also taking other college courses and experiencing Marlboro’s uniquely self-directed learning environment.

This writing program for veterans offers a relatively low-risk opportunity for them to try a four-year liberal arts college without expending their military educational benefits. Grant funding will cover the cost of tuition and other program expenses. If participants would like to officially matriculate after their year at Marlboro, they will be able to do so with the full benefit of their Yellow Ribbon funds, and with college credit already earned. Efforts are underway to develop a marketing plan with the goal of having three-to-five military veterans on campus for the 2017–18 academic year.

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