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June 14, 2005

Military Academies Face Declining Enrollment

The armed forces aren't the only parts of the military having trouble drumming up recruits.  Reuters reports that fewer high school students are applying to the U.S.'s three military academies. 

"Applications to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., which produces junior officers for the Army, declined 9.3 percent compared with last year, the academy said. Applications were down 20 percent from a year ago at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and down 22.7 percent at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs."

Enrollment is down despite the schools' free tuition and room and board.  Of course, that free ride does come with a catch: all students "commit to at least five years of active-duty service after graduating." 

According to Reuters, "Lexington Institute defense analyst Loren Thompson cited  three factors in the drop in applications.

"First of all, the economy is recovering, and so military  careers look relatively less appealing," Thompson said.

"Second, the Iraq war is creating a very powerful negative impact on the propensity of people to sign up and serve. And third, the wave of patriotism that followed 9/11 has largely dissipated after two years of fighting in Iraq," Thompson added, referring to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

West Point spokesman Mike D'Aquino said it would be  speculation to blame the war for the decline in applications. "There's really no hard facts to make that conclusion,"  D'Aquino said. Meade Warthen, an Air Force Academy spokesman, agreed, saying: "We just don't know, and we wouldn't want to speculate. I could come up with a hundred reasons and so could anybody else."

Barmak Nassirian of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers said that in contrast to the military academies, application volume appears to have increased this year at most colleges and universities. Applications declined from 11,881 last year to 10,774 this year at West Point and from 12,430 last year to 9,604 this year at the Air Force Academy, the schools said. D'Aquino said this year's drop left West Point at about the level of applications it was receiving before the 2001 attacks, adding that there has been no decline in the quality of the incoming class compared to previous classes. "We're still getting a big pool of qualified applicants,  good applicants," D'Aquino said. The Air Force Academy, rocked by a recent sexual assault scandal and currently the subject of an investigation into allegations of religious bias, said its applications also had receded to levels predating the 2001 attacks. Warthen said last year's number of applications was the highest since the class that entered in 1988."

 

Posted by Kat Aaron on June 14, 2005 | Permalink

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