Thoughts of a potential AROTC parent

Discussion in 'ROTC' started by DanGir, Nov 30, 2013.

  1. DanGir

    DanGir Member

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    My son has applied for and received a four year Army ROTC scholarship to his top three choices. We are excited for him. He is ready to go. He really likes all his schools and just wants to be an Army officer. His parents however, have some doubts. The more we read on these forums the more nervous we get. There is a lot of wisdom on on this website. One particular post struck a chord with me. Jcleppe said in a previous post:
    "While they call it a Scholarship, it is really a loan that you are required to give a certain number of years to the Army as long as you graduate and commission, or pay back if you don't. This is not like other scholarships where if you fall below the standards you no longer receive the scholarship but are not required to pay back what's been paid."
    If you approach it as a "loan" it is not quite as lucrative as a "scholarship." Heaven forbid he runs into some kind of problem and has to disenroll. I've read different posts on SAF about students with academic, weight, honor,alcohol issues, etc. It is not out of the realm of possibility. This post is an example: http://www.serviceacademyforums.com/showthread.php?t=30192&highlight=disenrollment
    The three schools he was given have a 4 year tuition rate of over $160000. How would he ever pay that off? Not only that, with financial aid at these schools, our total family contribution would be significantly less that $40000 per year without the ROTC scholarship. It would be financially better for him to be a non scholarship college programmer for all four years ( if he could even do that).
    At least we have a little bit of time to discuss this with him. There is a lot to consider. We appreciate the perspective given by this forum.
     
  2. kinnem

    kinnem Moderator

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    It's financially better for him without the scholarship, only if he doesn't complete the program. The items you mention: academic, weight, honor, alcohol, are all things within his control. Things outside his control, like a medical discharge should he be injured, does not require a payback. Also, remember the first year requires no payback. He gets to try a year for free. Show up on campus still enrolled in ROTC sophomore year, and you are faced with payback. Not saying you shouldn't seriously discuss this, but want to make sure you got all the facts. What you probably need to measure here is his commitment to commissioning. It is hard work and requires discipline both within ROTC and outside it while hanging with his peers. I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir.
     
  3. goaliedad

    goaliedad Parent

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    Your analysis of the scholarship being more like a loan is very true indeed at least for the last 3 years of it (per the above you can walk away after year 1 without owing a cent).

    With that in mind, don't take out a loan you cannot afford to pay back. Lots of families make this mistake without a commitment for a commission on the other end. They take out ridiculous amounts of student loans for degrees of marginal value, not doing the math first.

    That being said, it is OK to wonder if your son will make it through the program. You will need to have a serious conversation at the latter part of his first year (while he still has time to transfer to a lower-cost school for next year if you cannot afford the school without the scholarship) about whether he wants to commit HIS money or HIS 4+4 year commitment to this endeavor.

    That being said, if he is having a great time with it and all is well academically, PT, etc., the conversation should be short. If any one of the requirements is a struggle, then it is time to have a longer conversation. Some have a fear of failure (i.e. I am failing at this but I cannot admit the problem), but you can hear it in their voice that this isn't as much "fun" as it used to be. Others are letting their academics drop because playing soldier is too much fun and just get by academically (with plenty of lectures from the cadre). Others yet don't relish the PT at dark o'clock and aren't fully invested in the whole lifestyle that comes with the perks. These are the things to look for to tell if that will be a longer conversation.

    That being said, there isn't a 4-year AD commission guaranteed at the end either. Lots of great cadets found that out the hard way last week. If 8 years as a reservist/guardsman isn't his thing either, this may be another sign that this isn't a way to go because that Senior year becomes a drag if the only thing at the end of the line got taken away, which can cause the failure ($$$) at the finish line.

    Your concern isn't uncommon. It is OK to be this way. Just have a plan to examine the risks at the appropriate point and have Plan B ready.
     
  4. platypus1618

    platypus1618 Member

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    This thread contains some other perspectives of the nature of the scholarship as a "loan," I thought it was interesting to see how different people see the situation and it may provide you with some more insight (add the http and www): serviceacademyforums.com/showthread.php?p=337397
    While I think it's right to be cautious, as Kinnem said all of the situations that you listed are in the control of the cadet. While it's true that everyone makes mistakes or has lapses in judgment, he's not going to be disenrolled for bombing one test, gaining a few pounds, or recreational alcohol use (unless his school has an unusually strict alcohol policy, he gets a DUI, or does something similarly stupid while intoxicated). While some cadets do end up being the victim of circumstances that are ALLEGEDLY unfair, usually it will take a consistent string of bad decisions over time or one unusually poor (such as drunk driving) decision to cause the low enough grades, significant weight gain, or alcohol problems that would cause disenrollment. You would know best whether this is likely to happen for your son.
     
  5. ABF

    ABF Member

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    @DanGir,
    Your soon-to-be cadet will be surrounded by others like him. He will have a positive peer group that will help stay him on track. He'll be fine!

    Don't look at the scholarship as a type of "loan". It's more like a company's investment in a future employee / manager. If your kid doesn't give up on college, the Army won't give up on him. They will work as hard as he does to get him that degree and commission. I should know.... I was a marginal student back in the day and the Army made me sit up and take notice. Because of that Army contract, I knew I couldn't screw around when it came to my studies. It was a BIG motivator.

    I encouraged my own son to seek the Army scholarship. He got his packet in, but not in time for the first board. I guess we will hear more come January.
     
  6. Strength and Honor

    Strength and Honor Member

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    $160K for all three schools?! That's rough. As a fellow scholarship winner and prospective cadet, I definitely understand all of your concerns and they all are playing into my school selection now. But either way, it's good to hope for the best and plan for the worst. I, for one, am fortunate to be able to afford two of my potential schools without ROTC. Good luck with your decision.

    "Everything will be fine in the end. It's not fine now, but it's not the end."
     
  7. Jcleppe

    Jcleppe Member

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    I wouldn't count on this being the case. Cadet Command has renewed it's strict policy regarding alcohol in the past couple years. A single MIC/MIP can result in disenrollement.

    Don't make the height/weight or tape test before graduating/commissioning and you can be disenrolled, even if it's the first time.

    This is for the parents of new applicants, believe me, you think waiting to hear the results from the scholarship boards is stressful, just wait until they start their sophomore year on that scholarship.

    In the end there is only a very small percentage of cadets that are disenrolled, just make sure your cadet realize what's at stake.

    I have two sons, both on AROTC 4yr scholarships. One graduated/commissioned 2012, the younger is in his MS3 year. I have to admit that the thought of disenrollement creeped into my head from time to time. I trusted both of them to make good choices and be careful if the choice was not the best.

    I agree with ABF, ROTC is a great motivator to stay on track.
     
  8. gettingmoregrayhair

    gettingmoregrayhair Member

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    I have seen other responses about the effects of grades, alcohol, or physical deficiencies having an effect on scholarship retention. But i want to respond about the fact that an 18 year old, can simply reassess their priorities, just as we adults sometimes do.

    My DD was awarded a 4 year NROTC scholarship, had no problems in orientation, or with the physical demands. (She had been a 2 sport varsity athlete.) However, her major was in the 15% non-tech amount of scholarships that NROTC awards each year. She was still required to take 2 semesters of physics and 2 semesters of calculus, even though her college major did not require them. ( No argument there, that was part of the deal/loan/scholarship.)

    But after a real struggle with calculus, and a freshman year filled with interesting classes in her major, she simply decided that the anxiety of taking required classes that would never help her academic goals, and in fact took away from her desired study plans, was not for her.

    Because she was at an in-state school within a reasonable financial situation, she was able to drop on request from the scholarship. (She dropped before the start of her second year, so no penalties were incurred.)

    College is a time of change and growth, and you can never plan on the unexpected. Just presenting another side of the equation.
     
  9. Oldsalt

    Oldsalt Member

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    DG,
    I’m sure someone on this forum has the numbers, but the percentage of contracted sophomores to successful commissioning is much higher than you are thinking.
    This forum is filled with the nightmare scenarios as it is one of the only places to seek advice outside the chain of command. A lot of parents are not familiar with the military or specifically the ROTC process.

    If your child is struggling with the process as a freshman DO NOT let them contract. It only gets harder.
    Specifically regarding NROTC, if your child is having problems with the calculus or physics requirement, do not let them contract until they have met the requirement or until they have converted their scholarship to Marine option.

    Cadets and midshipman need to understand their permanent record starts the second they walk on campus their freshman year. If they are not mature enough to understand that, do not let them commit.

    The most common problems arise from poor choices. Just because other students or cadets/mids are doing it does not protect them. I have seen instances where a senior member facilitates the poor choice only to deny it to save their own skin. Life is not fair and the military is less so. Just because someone else got away with it before does not absolve the current violator.

    If the student is doing well academically, has lived up to the honor code, and has not committed a crime, they will be fine. This describes the majority of the participants.

    I’m sure someone will jump on and give an example of where their child was booted and met the above criteria. I’m just as sure they do not have the whole story. I have seen many disenrollments. I am at a loss to think of one that was unforeseen. Each time the member was given counseling numerous times as to performance whether it be academic, physical, or lifestyle choices. The exception is always the DUI or a momentary lapse of reason, like having someone else take an exam for them. (Have seen that more than once but always for the calc or physics requirement.)

    It is ultimately you child’s decision as to whether they choose an ROTC path. As a parent all you can do is help them make an informed decision. Sit them down before their sophomore year and review their freshman year. Talk to the unit to find out their perception of your child’s performance. If you hear anything other than “you have a great child” or “they are really excelling” or “great cadet/midn” investigate further. Make them understand the commitment they are making.

    I have seen angry parents that were clueless to their child’s complete lack of performance show up and blame everyone but the child. A 1.90 GPA at the end of their freshman year should have been a red flag. Contracting on probation should be prohibited, but some units allow it. Administer a PFT with your child. You would be surprised how many pass minimally.

    Gettingmoregrayhair saved herself a lot more by having the honest conversation with her DD. More parents having a similar conversation would prevent a lot of the nightmare stories.

    JMHO,
    OS
     
  10. DanGir

    DanGir Member

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    Thank you for all the replies. My wife and I are cautious people by nature (as if you could not tell). :wink:
     
    AROTC-dad likes this.
  11. kinnem

    kinnem Moderator

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    I can't speak to AROTC, but in my DS's NROTC unit attrition from the time they show up for freshman orientation (scholarship and college programmers) is about 50%. I don't know the attrition rate for just scholarship participants but I'm confident it's in the 25%-50% range. In any case, you might use these suggested numbers when having your discussion with the kid, keeping the lack of obligation through the first year in mind.

    All that being said, it's a great program and anyone who is committed to it should complete it and will grow immensely out of their participation. I think that's also true, to a lesser degree, for someone who only completes the first year of the program.
     
  12. dunninla

    dunninla Member

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    OP -- it is good for you to get possible drawbacks out on the table ahead of time, think them through, then weight the benefit/possible cost rationally as you are now.

    The biggest problem exposed by the disenrollment discussions here is the almost universal ignorance on the part of parents about the tuition/fees/books/stipend payback obligation of a cadet who is separated after 1st day of MS2 year. It is well spelled out in the Scholarship Cadet ROTC Contract, in section 3 if I am remembering correctly, but I'll bet less than 10% of cadet parents have ever seen that document the cadet signs. Since most parents don't wash their hands of financial assistance to their cadets the day they turn 18, then most parents are in fact incurring a repayment obligation they are almoost universally unaware of. A parent, nor HS student, can't effectively weigh the cost/benefit of the "scholarship"/loan if they are unaware of all the costs. When a HS student leans on their parents for life advice, and discuss this scholarship, they undoubtedly discuss the Service Obligation connected with the Scholarship. But they don't discuss the repayment obligation provision of the Contract, because neither Parent nor future Cadet has ever read that Contract.

    It is my opinion the the ROTC Scholarship Cadet Contract should be included in the Scholarship award letter. How else are future Cadet and Parent supposed to find out about ALL the obligations associated with the Scholarship?

    The second biggest problem exposed by these disenrollment discussions is that it is apparent that many (let me take a guess and say one half) of cadets have not carefully read all pages of the Contract, nor has the repayment obligation been highlighted by the Cadre of HR staff when a cadet does sign the Contract. When a cadet is considering voluntary separation, and they are only then completely informed about the repayment obligation by the Cadre, it can come as a sober reality they had never considered.

    OP -- You are way ahead of most cadets and 95% of parents in understanding the financial risk of the ROTC Scholarship/Loan- To-Be-Forgiven-with-Service. Even if this repayment obligation only affects 15 to 20% of cadets, it sure is important when your cadet is one of those 15% or 20%.

    While I agree that the conduct and PFT separation conditions are completely within the control of the cadet, academics is a different issue. There are indeed cadets who have never really learned in High School or early in college how to properly study and prepare for exams. You just can't say that 100% of academic probation dis-enrolls from a University were avoidable by the student or cadet.

    A second area leading to voluntary separation that is worthy of consideration is a change in the desire of a cadet to serve his/her country as a military officer. What if the cadet, around the end of MSII year, reaches the conclusion that serving as an Officer just isn't the lifestyle or employment choice they thought it was? What if the cadet discovers that they actually are not attracted to the people within the program, or what if they now better understand the lifestyle of an Officer, and couldn't envision spending four or five years with them and doing that after graduation? Or what if the cadet's father passes away unexpectedly, and the surviving mother feels she needs the cadet to live and work nearby (health reasons, other family issues), and therefore commissioning and deploying far from home isn't an option any more? If the ROTC scholarship were like other college scholarships, like academic or athletic, the student has no payback obligation when they no longer qualify for the scholarship (GPA dips below 3.0), or decide to leave college for a job. If it is an ROTC "scholarship", there *is* a payback obligation. As I pointed out above, most cadets are not aware of this risk when they accept the "scholarship" as High School seniors. How could they be? A scholarship is free, right? How are they to know that THIS scholarship isn't like any other scholarship they or their parents have ever heard of, and is more like a loan that is forgiven only upon commissioning or medical discharge?

    OP, clearly you are aware of the possible risks, and now you can simply, calmly, weigh the great benefits against a 15-20% (or whatever it really is) chance of an unexpected repayment obligation. Most parents will, as we did when we DID find out about the repayment obligation (in the middle of MSI year thanks to this website), still advise our cadets that the benefits of the "Scholarship" far outweigh the risks.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2013
  13. khergan

    khergan Member

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    Very solid advice being given here.

    All I can say to add to that is that the weight of responsibility can be a positive thing if viewed in the right way. A 4 year scholarship to an expensive school is a very valuable thing, and imposes a lot of responsibilities on the cadet.

    I would impress upon your son that it is very worthwhile, but it is important to know what the implications are for screwing up. That being said, having been through ROTC, I think that it is really not that big of a deal if you truly want to commission. Do the right thing, and you'll be alright.
     

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