Military Academy Applications Surge

By Staff

June 18, 2009

Applications to the nation's top three military academies increased significantly this year, and officials are attributing the trend to a combination of aggressive marketing, declining casualties in Iraq and the recession.

The Associated Press [from an article originally located at] reports that the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland received about 15,300 applications this year, amounting to a 40 percent increase compared to last year--the highest number of applications received since 1988. At the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, 11,106 applications were received--up 9 percent from the year before. The U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado similarly saw 9890 applications, reflecting a 10 percent jump.

Military academy officials acknowledged that the economic downturn may have played a role: Tuition and board are completely covered at the academies, and students receive thousands of dollars in stipends every year. In the same way that public universities and community colleges are seeing increased enrollment of students endeavoring to pursue higher education on reduced budgets, the increase in applications at military academies may be another sign of the dire economic times.

But officials downplayed the effect of the recession on the surge in applications, and noted that students tended to have more personal reasons for applying, such as a desire to follow a parent's footsteps or a sense of patriotism.

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

Instead, officials credited the trend to intensified marketing campaigns which they said played a major role in luring applicants. According to Col. Deborah McDonald, West Point's director of admissions, the Military Academy even bought billboard space at airports in various major metropolitan areas throughout the country during the holiday season last year.

McDonald also told The Times that the decreased casualty count in Iraq may have also helped alleviate concerns about attending military academy. But Carpenter pointed out that there's been increased interest in the Marine Corps at the Naval Academy, even though they represent the second-largest group of casualties in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a nod to the trend, army recruiters have also reported an increased interest in military service, and Army officials have become more selective of whom they accept as a result.

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