Opinion | Missing From Top Colleges: Veterans

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Regular readers know that socioeconomic diversity on college campuses is an obsession of mine. A lot of colleges, public and private, like to think of their campuses as highly diverse. And they are diverse racially, religiously and geographically. But many of them remain dominated by affluent students.

One twist on this problem is the embarrassingly small number of military veterans at many top colleges. “Veterans,” says Catharine Bond Hill, the former president of Vassar, who now runs Ithaka S+R, a research group, “are underrepresented at the set of schools with the highest graduation rates and the most resources.” Some top colleges enroll fewer than five veterans a year. My colleague Frank Bruni listed some of the miserable numbers in a 2016 column.

But now there are at least some small signs of progress. I attended a conference at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday where several colleges promised to increase veteran enrollment.

Cornell, which now has about 40 veterans among its undergraduates, plans to raise that number to 100 by 2020, for example. Indiana University, the University of Michigan and Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania also said they would increase their numbers. And the College Board announced it would make it easier for colleges to identify veterans with solid standardized-test scores.

Right now, many colleges aren’t even trying to recruit veterans. Among the colleges that recruit on military bases, “You don’t see Cornell. You don’t see the University of Maryland,” Piragash Swargaloganathan, a Navy veteran and recent Cornell graduate, told me at the conference. “It’s mostly online schools and for-profit schools.” (And many online and for-profit colleges have terrible records.)

The good news is that the veterans who do enroll in strong four-year colleges tend to do very well. They have higher grades and graduation rates than average. Recruiting more veterans to these colleges, as Hill says, will help the veterans, the colleges and ultimately the country.

Amazon’s power play. Big business has become too big and too powerful. It has the power to hold down wages and overly influence government policy, among other problems.

For now, our corporate giants face few real threats to their size and power. But I am hopeful that the politics of big business is starting to change. On both the political left and right, you can see growing concern about this issue.

The latest episode of “The Argument” podcast takes on the problem of corporate gigantism, tied to Amazon’s search for a second headquarters. You’ll hear that Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and I all found that search to be unseemly. As Ross says, the whole process has helped radicalize him on this issue.

For more on Amazon, read Shira Ovide in Bloomberg Opinion, Derek Thompson in The Atlantic or Jim Swift in The Weekly Standard.

Outrage culture. “It seems like every not-so-carefully-worded public misstep must be punished to the fullest extent, replete with soapbox lectures and demands for apologies,” Dan Crenshaw, a Republican congressman-elect, writes in The Washington Post. “Anyone who doesn’t show the expected level of outrage will be labeled a coward or an apologist for bad behavior.”

‘Operation Infektion.’ If you haven’t watched the new Times documentary on disinformation, I encourage you to check it out. All three episodes are available here. The final one has the broadest theme. As Adam Ellick, the executive producer, says, “We show how today’s Western governments are ill-equipped to combat this kind of warfare, and how governments, social media platforms and societies themselves need urgent reform and regulation before it’s really too late.”

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David Leonhardt is a former Washington bureau chief for the Times, and was the founding editor of The Upshot and head of The 2020 Project, on the future of the Times newsroom. He won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, for columns on the financial crisis. @DLeonhardt Facebook

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