(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – Cadet enrollment in Reserve Officer Training Corps programs remains strong at Washington area universities, despite the downward trend in nationwide enrollment, according to ROTC officials at Georgetown and the University of Maryland.
Over the past two school years, ROTC enrollment at schools all over the country has fallen more than 16 percent according to the Army’s Cadet Command at Fort Monroe, Va. Currently, 26,566 are enrolled in programs nationwide, a 10 percent drop from last year’s enrollment of 29,618 cadets. In the 2002-3 academic year, 31,765 were enrolled in ROTC nationally.
Some experts attributed the declining trend to the conflict in Iraq and a fear of recruits being sent into the war-zone.
“As for the reason for a nationwide decrease in enrollment, I’d simply offer what is probably fairly obvious: The war in Iraq continues, and many parents are discouraging their children from participating in the belief that if they are commissioned as officers, either active duty or reserve component, they will go to fight in Iraq,” said LTC Allen Gill, Director of Georgetown University’s ROTC said in an email. “Increasingly, we find that it is the parents who have the most serious objections to the program, not the students.”
Currently, the program has its fewest participants than it has over the decade. ROTC programs are responsible for training and commissioning more than six out of every ten officers for the Army.
The number of cadets commissioned has increased as the same time because cadets who joined the program three to four years ago are rising juniors and seniors. This is due to the larger incoming classes seen at the beginning of the decade.
Membership in Georgetown’s program, the Hoya Battalion, is currently 86 cadets, including students from nearby Catholic, American, George Washington and Marymount Universities. Gill says that Georgetown will commission between 23 and 25 cadets for next year’s class, up from 22 that were commissioned in 2004 and 17 in 2003.
“We have seen a decrease in the number of high school students, entering freshmen, who express interest in an ROTC scholarship, but that decrease has been offset by those students who walk into our offices and express an interest in becoming Army officers, many of these are sophomores or juniors,” Gill said. “We begin most years with around 100 cadets and finish each year with numbers in the mid 80s due to natural attrition and our determination that some are not suited for military service.”
The University of Maryland’s figures also did not match the national trend, according to Major Tracy Koivisto of the schools air force ROTC, which also serves students from George Mason University. “We have a growing program,” Koivisto said of the 53 cadets currently enrolled, up from the 14 that were enrolled in July 2002.
While some students seek out the program, the ROTC sets up booths at information fairs and does other activities in order to draw students to the program.
Army officials say that that they are looking for more “quality than quantity” when recruiting new officers. They are seeking more qualified cadets who are likely to remain in the program and receive a higher commissioning.
“We want students who have a desire to serve,” Koivisto said. “We are looking for people who can go through physical as well as leadership training.”
Howard University’s Air Force ROTC commissioned 18 in 2003, the same as in 2002, but twice the amount as commissioned in 2000.
According to their Web site, Howard anticipates an increase in freshmen enrollment over the next few years. Eligible students can receive free room and board for being part of Howard’s air force ROTC. In addition to being from Howard, cadets are from American, Catholic, George Washington, Marymount and Trinity universities as well as the University of the District of Columbia.