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Is JROTC a wise use of class time?

Many U.S. high school students aren't getting the challenging academic course work they need.

Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), a military-run training program for high school students, is now found in more than 2,600 U.S. schools. More than 330,000 students are enrolled in JROTC classes nationwide. Most JROTC programs are in big-city schools, in rural areas, or in the South -- in schools with below-average college attendance rates.
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Students in these high schools are encouraged to enroll in JROTC even though it is of little or no educational value in the eyes of most colleges. A survey by the American Friends Service Committee of state colleges and university systems showed few signs that JROTC would help students meet college entrance requirements.

Today, education experts strongly recommend that all students enroll in academically challenging college preparatory classes regardless of their post-high school plans. The expansion of JROTC in high schools runs counter to this national trend toward higher academic standards.

Most students take JROTC as an elective course, when they could be using that class time to take subjects such as algebra, lab sciences, or a foreign language that would enhance their college readiness and life options. Some students spend as many as four years in JROTC. Many students end up in watered-down courses such as JROTC because they are strongly encouraged to do so by school officials or because they are considered by students to be easy subjects.

The impact of this failure to stress academic course work is clear: most graduates of U.S. high schools have not completed all the classes normally required to enroll in college.

Only 43 percent of high school seniors report being enrolled in a college-prep curriculum. Among students who take the ACT college entrance exam--students actively pursuing college--only 59 percent report that they have completed a core college-prep curriculum. These students graduate unprepared for an economy where more and more of the good jobs require high levels of formal education, skill, and training.

Schools should encourage enrollment in
college preparatory courses - not JROTC.

California Florida Georgia Idaho Illinois Kansas Maryland Minnesota Mississippi Missouri Oregon South Carolina Wyoming

The states listed here have implemented minimum admissions standards -- spelling out a core curriculum that high school graduates must complete to fulfill the admission requirements for their state college and university system. Policies in these and other states indicate that students are not likely to get credit for JROTC when they apply to college. JROTC may in fact divert students from taking the courses they need to complete the core college prep curriculum.

A college preparatory curriculum is defined differently from state to state, but generally includes the following elements:

    4 years of English
    3-4 years of math (algebra and above)
    2-3 years of lab science (i.e., chemistry, biology)
    2-4 years of social studies
    2 years of a foreign language
    1-2 years of fine arts

A college preparatory curriculum develops the ability to write well, think critically, and make well-informed business and life decisions. These prerequisites for success are the same regardless of what a student plans to do after high school.

Does JROTC count toward admission requirements at colleges in your state?

In California, JROTC is not counted toward admissions requirements for any of the schools in the University of California system. The California State University system has a 15-course requirement that does not offer credit for JROTC. "Military science" courses are excluded from the calculation of grade point average when determining a student's college eligibility.

In Florida, the university system has a core curriculum entrance requirement of 19 courses. JROTC does not count toward any of the 15 required academic courses, but can count toward one of the 4 elective courses required for college admission. A student's grade in JROTC is not factored into GPA, and a new state scholarship program factors in student grades in their academic courses only.

In Georgia, the state university system requires 15 year-long high school courses (4 years in English, 3 in math, social science and science, and 2 in a foreign language). Georgia's Board of Regents has determined that JROTC is a non-academic course that will not count toward college admission requirements or be factored into a determination of the student's grade point average.

In Idaho, 30 semesters of college preparatory coursework are required for admission to the state's four 4-year public institutions. JROTC does not count toward these course requirements, nor is it a factor in the calculation of grade point average used for college eligibility.

In Illinois, the 10 four-year public institutions and the state's community college system require that high school graduates complete a 15 unit core curriculum. Junior ROTC does not count toward any of the requirements in this core curriculum.

In Kansas, completion of a 14-unit pre-college curriculum is required for admission to each of the state's six "Regents universities." JROTC does not count toward these academic requirements and is not considered by the state's three scholarship programs.

In Maryland, the 11 schools that belong to the University of Maryland system all have a minimum 14-unit core curriculum that is required for admission. JROTC does not count toward this requirement.

In Minnesota, the University of Minnesota and the 4-year state university system all have a 16 course academic core curriculum that is required for a high school graduate to be considered for admission. JROTC does not count toward this core curriculum.

In Mississippi, the state's eight 4-year public universities normally require completion of a 15 unit college prep curriculum for admission. JROTC would not count toward this requirement. (A small number of students who fall short of this requirement are eligible for admission at each institution if they successfully complete a nine-week "Summer Developmental Program.")

In Missouri, a 16-course core curriculum is required of incoming students; four-year state institutions are expected to have 100 percent compliance with this requirement. JROTC does not count toward it.

In Oregon, there are seven 4-year public colleges which have a requirement that students complete 14 college preparatory courses to be eligible for admission. JROTC is not viewed as one of the college preparatory courses by the State System of Higher Education.

In South Carolina, a 20 unit core curriculum must be completed to guarantee entry into a four-year state institution. JROTC will not count toward the 20 unit requirement, unless a student is substituting JROTC for physical education. JROTC can be counted as a course in physical education and applied toward one unit of the 20 unit requirement.

In Wyoming, the state's only four year public institution, the University of Wyoming, has a 13 unit college prep curriculum requirement for admission. JROTC does not count toward this requirement.

In the other states surveyed, admissions policies were determined by the individual institutions, and AFSC did not survey the admissions requirements of the individual institutions.

Our Methodology

American Friends Service Committee contacted over 30 state boards of higher education to inquire about whether that state has mandated that students fulfill core curriculum requirements in order to seek admission to the state's institutions of higher education. If so, we asked how coursework in JROTC would be viewed in terms of those requirements.

In a majority of states, the admissions requirements are set by the individual public institution. In those states, AFSC did not attempt to survey individual institutions about how JROTC would be viewed by admissions offices. To find out how JROTC is viewed, one would have to contact each individual institution's admissions office.

But in the states identified above, AFSC learned that completion of a core academic curriculum is required for admission to state institutions -- and coursework in JROTC is of no value toward these admissions requirements in virtually all these state systems.

What about community colleges?

In many of the above states there is a 2-year public community college system that has open admissions or few admissions requirements. Students who have failed to complete a college preparatory curriculum may be able to gain admission to these institutions. Requirements vary greatly from state to state and school to school about what kind of remediation may be required to enroll or to later transfer to a 4-year institution. Students who do not get the college preparatory background in high school may see the community college route as a viable path to meet their educational needs.

But nationally, the transfer rate from 2-year to 4-year colleges has declined significantly over the past two decades, according Hunter R. Boyland of the National Center for Developmental Education at Appalachian State University (quoted in Education Week, April 12, 1995). Among minority students who are in need of remedial coursework and say they intend to transfer from a community college to a 4-year university, only 10% even earn a 2-year associate's degree, Boyland reports. This research reinforces the importance for high school students of being proactive in seeking out college preparatory coursework.

Further Reading

For more on JROTC and on the importance of college preparatory course work for all students, see:

Making Soldiers in the Public Schools, published by the American Friends Service Committee.

You may download Making Soldiers in the Public Schools as a PDF document (240 Kb) You will need Acrobat Reader to read the report. Free versions of Acrobat Reader are available for downloading on the Adobe web site.

New Army JROTC Curriculum Old Problems: A review of the new textbook by Catherine Lutz in the April 2000 Y&M Newsletter.

"Replacing High School's General Track," by Gene Bottoms, from the High School Journal (March/April 1997); condensed version appeared in Education Digest (October 1997).

"The Race Gap Widens," by Lynn Olsen, from Teacher Magazine (January/February 1997).

"Want To Keep American Jobs and Avert Class Division? Try High School Trig," by Patte Barth, from Education Week, November 26, 1997.

American Friends Service Committee
National Youth and Militarism Program
1501 Cherry Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102
phone: (215) 241-7176; fax: (215) 241-7177
E-mail your comments, questions, or requests to: youthmil@afsc.org

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