Service members and veterans pursuing higher education receive significant financial support through two key military programs: the Reserve Officer Training Corps, or ROTC, and the GI Bill. Both programs provide financial support in exchange for a service commitment, but they differ in the timing of service. For ROTC, the service commitment follows the attainment of a bachelor's degree and commissioning as an officer in one of the service branches, whereas the GI Bill supports veterans who have completed their service. Although neither program focuses on minority students, both have significant minority participation.
The Army, the Navy, and the Air Force each offer ROTC programs at more than 1,000 U.S. college campuses. (The Marine Corps option is part of Navy ROTC.) ROTC programs allow students to have a typical college experience and earn a college degree, while simultaneously studying leadership and attaining an officer's commission. ROTC programs offer merit-based scholarships, ranging in length from two to four years of financial aid.
Although the ROTC and scholarship programs vary slightly across the services, they all offer up to full tuition, an annual allowance for books and fees, and a monthly living stipend of up to $500. ROTC stresses hands-on leadership and management training and therefore works best in face-to-face situations.
ROTC programs are located only at traditional brick-and-mortar colleges. There are no ROTC programs at for-profit schools. Department of Defense statistics on 2010 officer accessions show that 19 percent of ROTC commissions were earned by women, 7 percent by Blacks, and 5 percent by Hispanics. The Army was the highest source of ROTC commissions for minorities among the services, as 8.7 percent of commissions were granted to Blacks and 7.3 percent of commissions were granted to Hispanics.
The post-9/11 GI Bill, introduced in 2009 and designed by its sponsors to increase attendance at four-year universities, offers increased benefits that were not available in the earlier Montgomery version of the GI Bill. One key improvement is that benefits are no longer adjusted annually on the basis of average undergraduate tuition; instead, the new GI Bill provides up to full tuition at the most expensive in-state public universities, an annual stipend for books and fees, and a monthly living allowance.