Dwindling Graduation #'s


10-Year Member
5-Year Member
Jan 28, 2009
I was surprised to see that the graduating numbers are much lower than the original class numbers. I understand that there's going to be some academic failures or change of heart etc...but I wonder what possible other reasons there may be for such a drop? I expected to see no more than a 100 or so difference in the gap from the original incoming figures but 400 plus is a lot of cadets gone from the original starting class.
That's not quite practical. For many reasons. But let's put it into perspective.

1) If 1000 graduate from a beginning number of 1350; then that's a drop out rate of 26%.
2) Nationally speaking; Forty-one percent of African-American college students and 47 percent of Hispanic students earn a bachelor's degree within six years, for instance, compared with 59 percent of whites. http://www.highereducation.org/ So; a 74% graduation rate in 4 years is AWESOME. Most schools don't get that high until 6 years.
3) The air force numbers are statistically normal. Considering by law, they are only allowed to commission 1000 grads a year; they know how many will drop out.
4) Most drop out in the first 2 years because there's no commitment if they leave. After that, it's usually because of grades.
5) Many leave because this isn't what they wanted or thought it would be. Some are athletes who thought they were getting an "Athletic Scholarship" which meant they were going to play. Instead of 18 recruits for football like a normal college; they saw 60+ recruits because they don't get academic scholarships. Therefor they can invite any and all.
6) Some came in because of their family. It wasn't really their choice. Either for money, convenience, family history, or a number of other reasons. Fortunately they realized in time that this wasn't for them.

The one constant that the academies have is that you REALLY DON'T KNOW WHAT THE HELL YOU ARE GETTING INTO!!!! It's not like 10% of your high school class went there and you can ask how it is. It's not like your state school. A normal college; I don't care where it's at; basically only deals with you a few hours a day. They DON'T CARE if you ever come to class. They DON'T CARE what you do when you aren't in class. If you pay your money and pass the tests; you get a degree. The academies want you MIND, BODY, and SPIRIT. They want it 24/7. They want you to be part of something so much bigger than yourself. Most of the civilian world believes it's all brainwash. They think you'll all become numbed robots. They can't imagine someone actually willing to die for people they don't even know.

Well; long story short; these realizations start to kick in on a cadet after a couple of years. They start to realize that if they start their 3rd year, that there's really no turning back. Until then, they can change their mind at any time. They start paying attention to CNN, MSN, FOX, etc... They start paying attention to Israel and Palestine. To North Korea. To Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, etc... They realize that all of President Obama's speeches were all part of a euphoric party designed for an election; and now it's the next morning and we are back in the real world. That the troops AREN'T coming home tomorrow. That terrorism is still a threat. Many cadets did the same thing under Bush, Clinton, Bush, Regan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, etc...

The point is; there's a lot of reasons people leave the academy. Most of the time, it's because they had no idea what they got themselves into. Some still want the military and go back to civilian colleges and go to ROTC or OTS after graduating. Some leave the military all together. Bottom line however is; the 74% graduation rate is actually pretty good when you look at most colleges in the country. Especially finding stats of how many students actually graduate in 4 years. later... mike....
Thank you for the sound explanation...its just disheartening but it is realistic...its just too bad the weeding out process takes that long to kick in.
It's just as common in the "Real World". The academy is just a sub culture of our society. It would be nice if the academy could select 950-1000 students each year to appoint; knowing that they would go four years, graduate, and become military officers. It would be even better if they could select only those that they know were going to make it a 20 year career. But so would every college; IBM; HP; Intel; and every company in the world. But people change; their ideals, desires, and goals change. That's human nature. later... mike....
Graduation rates are even better now than just a few years ago. The class of 2006 started with the usual numbers of people, but ended just short of 900 people. Lower than a 65% graduation rate for that class. It happens.

Why is that disheartening to hear?
Christcorp hits a lot of great points however...ever the "pain in the butt" that I am...I have to take issue with one comment:

"3) The air force numbers are statistically normal. Considering by law, they are only allowed to commission 1000 grads a year; they know how many will drop out."

Not true, although I think I understand what he is trying to say.

There is no Title 10 or Title 18 limitation on the number of graduates from any service academy that may be commissioned in a single year.

However...in a "typical" year the DOD "Officer Accessions" will typically pan out to no more than 1000 grad's from each academy (because of typical attrition records). BUT...if there are more than 1000 grads in a given year, they'll all be commissioned; nobody will be turned away, and no "waiver" is needed to any law.

In past years when we graduated more than 1000 from USAFA, it was no big deal...initially. However when it happens and the DOD is drawing down the officer corps, "they" may elect to offer "early out" and such programs, even to newly graduated officers. This most recently occurred in the year groups 2001-2003 (if memory serves) during a "force shaping" move. The year groups were inordinately high in those year groups and officers were offered "buyouts" essentially to leave service. We actually had some graduates that graduated, and then left the service within a year with no strings attached, simply to meet DOD requirements.

I think this is why CC said "...1000..." But there's no legal limit there.

And yes, I did call the USAFA/XP and USAFA/JAG before I started this just to make sure I wasn't being silly. :smile:

AFA '83
Steve, you are correct. One major problem I have in forums is trying to NOT be to in-depth about certain policies. Especially those that are legal in nature. I can be long winded, but I normally try and stay with the basic understanding. Like many things military or constitutionally related, it goes a lot deeper than forum posts can usually explain. Thanks for clarifying that. I'm sure there are some potential/existing cadets who may have read my writing literal and thought they might run into problems if there were too many cadet graduating. Thx... Mike....
The retention and graduation rates actually exceed most universities and colleges. And from what I've seen academics trip up many, including athletes who aren't sheltered academically.

I would also argue that you don't want everyone in the class to graduate - the selection process isn't perfect. Getting in for some is the goal...but it'll take a lot more than what you have done in high school to graduate.
1984 started with 1600+ and graduated 1027 (first class over 1000).
1984 started with 1600+ and graduated 1027 (first class over 1000).

Obvious cause: weak beast and almost no hell week! :rant2:

Oh, wait...MY class gave you Hell Week...

Check that: it was NIGHTMARISH! :thumb:
I actually thought we had a good hell week (at least one of the last good ones except of course: 85 - are we still alive?...now that was a good hell week!!!)...then they moved it to May during our senior year and about killed several hundred doolies by forgetting to water them periodically!!!