ROTC is an excellent way for students to earn financial aid for their college education while giving back to their country.
Financial aid directors seeking to offer a full range of aid options should certainly include ROTC on their list. Before handing out information to students and parents, however, you’ll want to make sure your department has all the facts. Below we discuss
- What ROTC is
- How to talk about it on the FA website
- What to do if your college doesn’t offer ROTC
- Tips for how to discuss ROTC impartially with students.
What Is ROTC and What Are Students’ Options?
The Reserve Officer Training Corps is a program whereby students take courses aligned with military curricula and receive scholarship money while they get their college education. After graduation, students enroll in the military.
Four of the five branches of the military offer ROTC programs, including the Army, Navy, Marine Corps (NROTC) and Air Force (AROTC). The Coast Guard does not offer an ROTC option. (However, it does offer Coast Guard Split Training, in which students between the ages of 17 and 30 may enroll.) Their programs and locations vary, but a student particularly dedicated to one branch or another can search for suitable colleges or universities based on that desire.
How Does a Student Get an ROTC Scholarship?
Unlike many other types of scholarship, which have a need-based component, ROTC scholarships are purely merit-based. This means that students must meet minimum standards for GPA, test scores and academic achievement in order to qualify for scholarships, explains FAFSA. These include two-, three- or four-year scholarships, depending on the student’s qualifications. Like program curricula and locations, standards vary by program. High school counselors or financial aid admin can help students by providing them with the eligibility requirements needed to enroll in a particular ROTC program.
How Should You Present ROTC Information on the FA Website?
College financial aid websites should offer a basic overview of what ROTC is and an explanation of the financial aid requirements and benefits. You may choose to do a nonspecific overview that encourages students to talk to financial aid officers for more information, like this site. Or you could talk about a particular program you offer and its details, as this site does. Though neither approach is wrong, consider putting as much information as possible on your website. Students expect to be able to get all pertinent information on websites, as you’ll find from the data in our upcoming blog about self-service.
In either case, be sure to give at least an outline of what ROTC is for students who may not be familiar with this option, and clarify that these scholarships are not need-based, which could rule out a number of kids who aren’t truly militarily minded.
What If Your Campus Doesn’t Offer ROTC?
Only about 1,000 colleges and universities across the nation offer on-site ROTC programs. At schools that do not have them on campus, you can help students enroll in a partner university, at which they can take ROTC classes for credit while earning their degree with your institution. Each ROTC branch has its own network of partnership schools. The Air Force, for instance, offers a College Locator indicating which schools offer Air Force ROTC programs on campus and which welcome students from other institutions. Point your financial aid applicants toward these resources so they can figure out what programs work best for them. You can also help by compiling a list of nearby colleges that offer ROTC and the appropriate contact at that school. This will streamline the process for students and create a mutually beneficial partnership between the two schools.
Advice for Talking to Students about ROTC
Helping students learn more about their financial aid options, including ROTC programs, is a great way to help your student body meet its educational goals and make your college or university more attractive to potential students. One key piece of advice for FA counselors is to not pre-judge the students you think may or may not be interested in ROTC. Every qualifying student should at least be made aware of the ROTC options. [Tweet “Give every qualifying student facts but not your opinions about #ROTC. FA should be impartial.”]
After working in financial aid for years, you may be able to foretell with accuracy who will be interested in or succeed in the ROTC program, but it’s important to be impartial. Let qualifying students know the option exists. Answer their questions with facts. If they ask you for your opinion, direct them to their parents, current ROTC students on campus and the Internet to do their own research. Such a commitment – even with the related benefits – should be a personal and well-researched one for each student.
Staffing for ROTC
Are you a financial aid director who would like to add an ROTC program at your school, but you’re worried you don’t have the staff to manage it? Our student self-service software StudentVerification can reduce your verification processing times by 60-90%, so you can reallocate your staff to an ROTC program or other important tasks. Visit www.StudentVerification.com for more information or click the image below.