Applications Rise at the Military Academies

Patriotism—plus free tuition and room and board—makes the U.S. military academies appealing.

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More students are seeking admission to the nation's three major military academies because of the recession, declining levels of violence in Iraq, and new marketing strategies, the New York Times reports.

The surge in students' interest is most notable at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., where the number of applicants for the class of 2013 reached about 15,300—a 40 percent increase from the number of applicants for the class of 2012 and the highest number since 1988. Applications to the Military Academy at West Point and the Air Force Academy rose by 9.6 percent and nearly 10 percent, respectively.

At a time when layoffs and unemployment are the norm for many families, it seems logical that more students would express interest in colleges where tuition plus room and board are covered completely and students receive stipends of a few thousand dollars each year. But officials from the academies say that students who apply often have very personal reasons for doing so—like patriotism or parents who have served before them—and that the country's deep recession cannot be solely responsible for this surge in interest.

"You find in most of the people who apply, this is a process that starts several years in advance," says Joe Carpenter, a spokesman for the Naval Academy. "The process itself is much more involved and lengthy and often involves a congressional nomination, which is not something you do on a whim.

Carpenter added that the Naval Academy started recruiting more heavily in urban areas like New York two years ago. Today, the Naval Academy receives increased numbers of applications from these urban areas, especially ones submitted by minority students. Applications to the academy from minority students rose by 57 percent this year compared with last year, he says.