Why College Admission Departments Should Hire Veterans |
By John Lundberg | director of events at RecruitMilitary and a former gunnery sergeant in the United States Marine Corps |
The Post-9/11 G.I. Bill has made Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL’s) eager to connect with eligible veterans to enroll them as students. One of the ways IHLs are trying to increase their visibility in the military veteran community is by attending RecruitMilitary’s Opportunity Expos nationwide. When RecruitMilitary launched its Career Fair product line in 2006, it was primarily to get military veterans connected with direct employers for job opportunities. At the time, few educational institutions participated in these Career Fairs. However, a few IHLs, such as DeVry, recognized the value in connecting with veterans for enrollment. When the Post-9/11 G. I. Billwas rolled out, IHLs saw the importance of getting involved and needed a vehicle to market their schools to eligible veterans. Since the end of 2008, the increase of IHLs participating in Career Fairs increased dramatically. This led to renaming these events Opportunity Expos instead of Career Fairs, as the name more accurately reflected the many options that veterans might discover there.
As a traveler for RM, I have had the pleasure of witnessing this boom in IHL participation at our events. I have also witnessed frustration on the part of the institution’s representatives. These representatives are used to attending events with “traditional” students, who attend regular college expos in order to learn more about what a particular IHL has to offer, and how it may benefit them. On the other hand, military veterans are a tougher crowd; they have the means, the motive, and the maturity that make them great prospects for any IHL – but they are also a tougher sell.
My advice to IHL representatives at a RecruitMilitary Opportunity Expo is to be engaging and energetic. Shake hands with each and every veteran attending, and get them excited about why it’s important to gain a higher education. Inform them about how to best use the educational benefits they earned while serving in the military and convince them why they should do it at their particular IHL. My sense is that many school representatives are not used to having to “sell” their IHL to prospective students. Those IHL representatives who are successful at our events do just that – but many don’t.
DeVry has been a constant presence at our Opportunity Expos since they began. They have successful events, and that’s due in large part because they have been involved with enrollment of military veterans long before the Post-9/11 G. I. Bill. Another reason for their success is that they send military veterans and former military recruiters to the Opportunity Expos. These folks understand veterans, and are very comfortable getting them excited about the value of an education at DeVry.
In the last 18 months, I know of two IHLs that have realized the value in hiring military veterans and former military recruiters to assist in increasing veteran enrollment. In all three cases, the new IHL rep was hired after attending an Opportunity Expo. Each soon learned what it was like to attend a RecruitMilitary event on the other side of the table as an exhibitor! Duane Martin from Ellis University in Chicago attended a Chicago Opportunity Expo as a job seeker in April, 2009. When we returned to Chicago in October, 2009 to host another Opportunity Expo, Duane was the representative attending for Ellis University. At the end of the event, I learned that of the IHLs attending (12 of 33 total vendors), Duane had the most successful day of all.
Greg Seay attended an Opportunity Expo in Kansas City as a candidate in July, 2008. At the event, he was hired by Grantham University and tasked with increasing its military veteran enrollment. Greg, a former Marine Corps recruiter, had the training and experience that made him a great fit for the position. Almost two years later, Greg is now managing his department at Grantham.
The Post-9/11 G. I. Billis a fantastic tool for both veteran and IHLs alike, and RecruitMilitary is happy to partner with educational institutions at any of our 73 Opportunity Expos being produced in 2010. We want to see every IHL have great success at our events. Any IHLs seeking to increase their veteran enrollment should highly consider bringing a veteran on board their admissions staff to increase military veteran enrollment.