Naval ROTC students face financial aid choice

For students enrolling in Yale’s Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps unit next fall, active duty commitments after graduation will partly hinge on their financial aid choices.

The Naval ROTC offers two types of funding to its students. The “scholarship program” pays four years of college tuition in exchange for five years of active duty service after graduation, while the “college program” supplements institutional financial aid with a small stipend rather than full tuition and requires only a three-year active duty commitment. Naval administrators said in December that they expect the scholarship program — which is widely used on a national scale — to be less popular at Yale because of the University’s generous financial aid policy. But Lt. Molly Crabbe, who will oversee Yale’s Naval ROTC unit, said all but one of 24 prospective Yale students interested in the program have already applied for the scholarship option.

The Navy’s scholarship program pays for a student’s tuition and books while also providing a monthly stipend that starts at $250 during freshman year, and increases by $50 each subsequent year. The college program gives students a comparable stipend beginning in a midshipman’s junior year, but does not cover tuition costs.

“The two programs are very different from a financial standpoint, but both will start students on a level playing field,” Crabbe said. “If they don’t want the scholarship money, maybe because they’re uncertain if they want to make a career out of naval service or not, it’s a completely viable and respectable way to go.”

Students can apply for an ROTC scholarship as high school seniors, Crabbe said, and must decide whether to accept the military’s assistance and longer term of service it requires if awarded the scholarship.

University President Richard Levin said Monday that the Yale administration had “detailed conversations” about financial aid with naval officials over the summer. As Yale’s policy is need-based, Levin emphasized that students enrolled in the Naval ROTC program will get no less than their full need, regardless of who provides the funding.

Still, military aid packages can bolster the financial support that Yale offers.

While there are no Naval ROTC midshipmen currently at Yale, Andrew Hendricks ’14, an Air Force ROTC cadet who commutes to the University of Connecticut’s program, said his military scholarship made Yale a more realistic option.

“For me, personally, it was a big motivating factor, because my [Yale] financial aid package came in and it wasn’t that great, but the ROTC scholarship made Yale a lot more financially feasible,” he said.

Hendricks said most ROTC cadets he knows applied for and received a military scholarship, though he added that accepting the ROTC scholarship decreased his financial aid package from Yale.

Crabbe noted that accepting an ROTC scholarship does not bind students to the program.

If a student receiving an ROTC scholarship chose to drop out of the program during freshman year, the student would not be obligated to pay back any funding received from the military, Crabbe said.

“If they decide it’s not for them, they can leave [Naval] ROTC at the end of their freshman year with no obligation,” Crabbe said. “A student could go for an entire year of college paid for, say ‘thank you,’ leave and not have to repay any of that.”

From sophomore year on, Crabbe said students receiving Naval ROTC scholarships could still drop out of the program without having to complete the service requirements, but would be required to repay the Navy for all tuition that the military had previously covered ­— freshman year included.

Students will receive the rank of ensign in the Navy or second lieutenant in the Marine Corps upon completion of the naval ROTC program.

Comments