Local News

Need Help Paying For College?

Posted September 27, 2001 10:57 a.m. EDT

— This column was prepared before September 11, 2001. The tragic events at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon changed the release schedule. However, due to the need to act soon on the information it is being presented to our Web visitors at this time .

Summer is over. Our youngsters are back in school. For many it will be there last year in public school. They will graduate next spring. And then what?

In America today, about two of every three high school graduates seek a higher education in our colleges, universities and community colleges. As the demand for a coveted "acceptance" at an institution of higher learning has increased, so has the price of admission. In fact, college tuition rates have been increasing at a rate higher than the overall economy inflation index.

Unfortunately, we have many very bright, dedicated young men and women who are not able to afford their educational dreams. Fortunately however, there are tens of thousands of scholarship opportunities available from a multitude of sources. One of those sources is our armed forces.

The various United States military service academies (U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Air Force Academy, Coast Guard Academy) provide over 5,000 opportunities each year for a fully-funded four-year scholarship at exceptional institutions of higher learning.

Let me use the Air Force Academy as an example. There are no tuition charges of any kind. There are no fees for the dorm or for meals in the dining facility. There is no need to have insurance for medical and dental care. That care is provided at no cost. The cadets also receive $600 each month for their personal expenses. Now that's a scholarship! The only cost to those selected for attendance at the Academy is a $2,500 admission fee to help pay for uniforms, a computer and other personal items.

Acceptance at any of the service academies is highly competitive. With but a few exceptions, appointments must come from a U.S. Congressman, a Senator, or from the vice president of the United States. To start the process, a student should visit with their respective high school counselor, and/or log on to the respective service Web sites to learn more about the process. Military recruiting offices are also an excellent starting point.

To be sure, a highly-structured academy lifestyle is not for everyone. Many will desire to have the more typical college lifestyle. Here too, there are thousands of military scholarship opportunities available to qualified high school graduates. There are also thousands of scholarships available to those already attending a college or university. Again, check with a counselor, a Web site or a recruiter to get the details on how to apply.

It is not difficult to find a college or university where Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) is available. While there may not be a service ROTC detachment on a particular campus, there are still ample opportunities. For example, North Carolina State University in Raleigh has an Air Force ROTC presence on campus. However, students attending Meredith College, Shaw University, Peace College or St. Augustine's College may attend ROTC courses on the NCSU campus. The same holds true across the country. For example, the Air Force has over 850 "cross-town" schools affiliated with their more than 140 host campuses. The other services have similar arrangements.

Just as with the service academies, ROTC seeks those students with outstanding academic credentials and demonstrated leadership qualities. A strong GPA, coupled with extra-curricular participation, is essential. The goal here is not just to provide an educational opportunity; the services are also growing officers capable of leading men and women in the years to come.

ROTC offers several types of scholarships. Again, let me use the Air Force example since I am more familiar with their programs. However, the Army and Navy have equally excellent scholarships available, and I would encourage students to apply to each of the services if there is no over-riding preference for one service or the other.

  • An Air Force Type-1 scholarship pays a four-year full college tuition, most lab fees and books. About 7.5 percent of the four-year scholarships offered to high school students fall into this category.
  • Another 17.5 percent of the four-year scholarships (Type-2) pay up to $15,000 each year for tuition, lab fees and books.
  • The Air Force's Type-7 (no, I don't know what happened to Types 3 through 6) pays full tuition and most lab fees; however, the student must attend a college or university where the tuition is less than $9,000 per year. Most in-state schools fall well within that dollar restriction. There are also thousands of two and three- year scholarships available for those already enrolled at the university level.
  • All ROTC cadets will receive a non-taxable monthly personal allowance as well: $250 per month for freshmen and sophomores and $350 per month for juniors and seniors. This is their money to spend as they choose to do.

    It all sounds pretty good, doesn't it? And it is. But as with any good deal in life, there are some restrictions. All of these scholarship recipients, whether at a service academy or in an ROTC program, must maintain a satisfactory GPA. They must meet certain physical and grooming standards. They must remain drug-free. And, when they complete their baccalaureate education, they must serve a minimum number of years on active duty with their respective military service.

    They will, on the positive side of the ledger, have a guaranteed job when graduating. In some cases, they will be offered an opportunity for fully-funded graduate programs. They will all be given exceptional opportunities to learn, to mature, to lead, and most importantly, to serve their nation.

    For those interested in these exceptional opportunities you must act now. Academy applications are already under way for the class of 200 and ROTC applications have a December 1, 2001 deadline for filing. Go to


    and click on "recruiting"; and you may be on the way to a great education at little or no cost.