The high and rising price of college tuition has left many students scrambling to find new sources of financial aid to fund their educations. For many students, the U.S. military’s Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) provides opportunities to finance a first class education, and gain valuable leadership and discipline skills. The ROTC is not without flaws, however, and may not be ideal for many young people.
ROTC Tuition Benefits
Many students are attracted to ROTC programs by generous tuition benefits. Cadets, as ROTC students are known, can win scholarships for two, three or four years from the Army ROTC program. The scholarships not only cover tuition and fees, but also provide a stipend of up to $5,000 per month. The Navy and Air Force offer similar scholarships but with smaller stipends. For students facing difficulties affording their tuition bills, ROTC scholarships can be a huge help. To win these scholarship benefits, however, students must meet exacting standards, including minimum SAT and GPA scores and physical requirements.
Leadership and Discipline
A second benefit to joining an ROTC program is the opportunity to cultivate leadership and discipline skills. Many former cadets hail the program for helping them to develop confidence in themselves. Cadet Stephanie Buell explained that her experience allowed her to “gain confidence and proficiency in making decisions and implementing them.” These skills help students in their military service after college, but are also highly desirable in the civilian job market. Of course, the ROTC isn’t the only way to gain work experience and leadership training, but it is a good option for many students.
Another potential benefit for students participating in ROTC programs is a greater sense of involvement on campus. A recent study by Erin Massoni titled "The Positive Effects of Extra Curricular Activities on Students" showed that students who are involved in extracurricular activities on campus tend to earn higher grades and are at less risk of dropping out. There are many explanations for the connection between extracurricular activities and performance. Students involved in activities are less prone to behavior problems and are better able to structure their time. Participation in ROTC programs requires part-time military training and enrollment in about one class and one lab each semester. Many cadets describe participation as an opportunity to become involved in a campus community.
The Other Side of the Story
Despite these apparent benefits, the ROTC is not an ideal fit for all students. Most cadets are expected to serve at least four years in the military after graduating, and that service may include deployment to conflict zones. Additionally, not all students are eligible to receive ROTC scholarships. The most significant financial benefits are reserved for the top candidates. Finally, service in the ROTC requires students to enroll in specific classes that may interfere with their own academic agendas. For students interested in serving in the military, however, the ROTC is a good option.
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