USC ROTC sees rise in enrollment
USCâs Reserve Officer Training Corps programs have seen a dramatic jump in enrollment this fall, a rise that some attribute to the stalled economy.
According to James Wise, the enrollment and scholarship officer for the USC Army ROTC, the freshmen Army ROTC class has more than doubled compared to last year.
The other branches of the ROTC â Naval and Air Force â have also noticed a similar jump. Lt. Scott Carr of the Naval ROTC said that program has seen an increase in the number of students who join the ROTC after coming to USC. Carr said there has been about a 25 to 35 percent increase among those students.
The state of the economy has some believing that finances may be the reason for the number of applicants.
âIâm sure a lot of it is because of the economy,â Carr said. âAnd USC is an expensive school.â
There can be immediate financial benefits to joining ROTC, as both the Army and Navy program offer full-tuition scholarships. Still, Carr said the scholarships are only added incentive for individuals already interested in joining the military, and that scholarships alone would drive students to join ROTC.
âStudents who have a desire to serve their country find the NROTC scholarship very attractive,â Carr said. âIt provides a means to completing a degree and the opportunity to serve as a commissioned officer in the United States Navy or Marine Corps.â
There are also long-term benefits to membership in the program. Students who graduate from college and complete an ROTC program are able to start off at a management level, or an officer in some cases, when they enter the military.
Because of the guaranteed job placement, it is typical for ROTC enrollment numbers to go up when the economy is in a rut, according to Michael Keane, an assistant professor of clinical finance at the Marshall School of Business.
âItâs not unusual to find that in a recession, people will find job opportunities in the military to be more attractive,â Keane said.
But Commanding Officer Robert Huntley, a professor for Army ROTC, said there are other possible reasons for the increase in the number of applicants.
âThereâs a lot more recognition about the military … People are looking to serve the government and one of the ways is to join the military,â Huntley said,
Kevin Rohrberg, a junior majoring in history and political science, joined the Air Force ROTC his freshman year.
He said the economy might be the reason thereâs been an increase in the number of students in the ROTC.
âOne cool thing the ROTC has is that you have a guaranteed job [after graduating],â Rohrberg said. âItâs a great job security and itâs good pay.â
Rohrberg also has a partial scholarship from the Air Force ROTC to help him pay for tuition. But neither the economy nor the extra money was the primary reason he joined.
âItâs always been my dream to serve the country,â said Rohrberg. âIt wasnât the main reason. I mean, it obviously helps but it wasnât my defining factor for joining.â
Whatever the reason for the increase in applicants, the higher level of interest has given USCâs ROTC program a chance to be more selective.
Though Wise said the program is currently able to accept as many or as few students as it wants, the larger pool of applicants gives it more freedom to pick and choose.
âWe have a leeway to be more selective in what weâre looking for and who we want to be a part of our program,â Wise said.
Despite the economy, the Naval ROTC and Army ROTC have yet to experience any serious budget cuts for scholarships.
âWeâve been asked to continue to remain fiscally responsible and to look for ways to continue to improve our systems,â said Carr. âBut we havenât seen any scholarship cutbacks.â
Wise said the Army ROTC scholarship program has also remained consistent. Currently, students can be awarded full-tuition scholarships when they enter the Army ROTC.
The Army ROTC program is not currently very competitive, Wise said, but it has been in the past and could be again.
âWeâve had a scholarship program thatâs been effective,â said Wise. âBut I think that in the next three or five years, youâre going to see that full-tuition scholarship money become more competitive.â