ROTC numbers climb


Al Rothlisberger faced a difficult decision after graduating from high school: go straight into the Army or continue his education.

But then he found a solution. The Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps scholarship covers tuition, book money, and monthly tax-free cash stipends.

Although the economy had little effect on his ultimate decision to join the ROTC, Rothlisberger said, his out-of-state tuition is being paid in full by the scholarship.

He is one of many Army prospects drawn to the UI by generous scholarship offers, said Lt. Anthony Wolf, a UI assistant professor of military science.

The program has grown considerably in the past four years. In 2006, the UI’s Army ROTC commissioned six officers. The number jumped to 16 in 2009 with four more cadets expected by the end of summer session.

“I know there are cadets in our program who consider the ROTC scholarship as their primary reason in pursing a degree at the University of Iowa,” Wolf said.

He said the trend is less due to the economy than the department execution of recruiting and marketing plans. The UI has no collected data to support the down economy’s effect on ROTC enrollment numbers. Wolf said collecting this information would involve asking an extremely personal question about cadets’ financial situations.

But the funding opportunity seems tempting. The UI ROTC program has filled all 20 scholarship allocations for the mission set 2013 — the group of freshmen who will begin this fall, Wolf said. He is in the process of working with around 10 potential students to secure four-year scholarships.

Nationally, 4,300 Army ROTC cadets were commissioned in 2008, a jump from 4,050 in 2006.

The enticing offers come with serious commitment to the organization. ROTC scholarship students have an eight-year military obligation, Wolf said. That includes a four-year active duty commitment and four years in the Individual Ready Reserve.

This means the officers’ names remain on a list at Human Resources Command in St. Louis, Mo. The Army can call them back into service if necessary. The officers can also decide to transition to the National Guard or U.S. Army Reserve for the four years, Wolf said.

Upon graduation in 2011, Rothlisberger will have no debt from student loans and a career serving his country. In any case, he said, he knew the Army was for him.

And while there is no specific demographic that the Army ROTC targets, Wolf sees similarities in UI cadets.

“An ROTC student is a hard-working, middle-class student who believes in the Army values,” Wolf said. “And who wants to make a difference by leading others in the service of their nation.”

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