ROTC Benefits: The Financial and Personal Advantages of Participation

by John Montesi

The Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program has been present on college campuses for more than a century and is currently offered at more than 1,700 colleges and universities. While some programs are larger or better known than others, each institution offers its own opportunities, in addition to the common advantages of being part of the program.

To clarify the benefits of ROTC participation, here’s what you can expect from ROTC programming and how it can prepare you for success in your personal and professional life.

ROTC Benefits Include Specialized Training, Financial Support

First and foremost, ROTC offers preparation to become an officer in the military, including the United States Army or Air Force. By participating in ROTC concurrently with your college education, you can enter the reserves or active duty forces with advanced ranking. Additionally, ROTC provides money for college tuition. Because of this, many students choose ROTC as a way to combine their sense of purpose and duty with a way to pay for their college education.

But the benefits of ROTC go beyond achieving an advanced military ranking or paying for college. The ROTC program provides world-class leadership development, as well as valuable team building and networking opportunities. It also opens the door to specialized training with your local unit, which could include airborne, air assault, medical training, and other technical skills. If you’re interested in military life, the access to high-level training provided by ROTC is unparalleled.

What Is Life Like in ROTC?

To better understand what life in ROTC is like—and the ROTC benefits that cadets can expect access to—we spoke to Azusa Pacific University’s Army ROTC Captain Roddy Nguyen. His insights help shed some light on the opportunities that participants are afforded.

“The ROTC program focuses on leadership, critical thinking, and the values of the military to become a better citizen and person,” said Nguyen. “By participating in ROTC, the students are held to a higher standard.” ROTC typically involves a few special classes and training exercises—picture an additional military science course each semester combined with a more regimented version of physical education. Because of these experiences, many students report that they cherish the structure and camaraderie that ROTC provides; it is a surefire path to creating lifelong bonds with your peers and officers alike. APU’s ROTC program also blends the military strengths of discipline and leadership with the university’s faith-based learning community, which can deepen and enhance the college experience.

“To participate, students take part in our physical training on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and attend their ROTC-specific class on Mondays,” said Nguyen. During the third and fourth year of the program, the ROTC classes are held nearby at Claremont McKenna College.

What Scholarships and Financial Benefits Are Available?

Many students look to ROTC for the financial benefits as much as they do for the personal development opportunities. According to Vannessa Weber, assistant director of military and veteran education benefits at APU, ROTC cadets may be eligible for scholarships that can pay part (or all) of their tuition and fees.

“While eligibility for such scholarships can only be determined by the ROTC program itself, Azusa Pacific offers additional benefits to ROTC scholarship recipients by way of a room and board scholarship,” Weber said.

APU’s additional benefits make its program among the most comprehensive. Weber explains that, for many cadets, the combination of the ROTC tuition scholarship and APU’s room and board scholarship means they do not have any out-of-pocket expenses while working toward a degree. This is a huge benefit, as participants won’t have to take out any student loans during the time they receive the ROTC scholarship.

How Do Interested Students Get Involved?

From a perspective of financial preparation, students interested in joining the program should contact their on-campus ROTC office as early as possible. It’s a good idea to be proactive and get a head start because some benefits take longer to activate than others.

“It is important for applicants to know that every benefit works a little differently—they each have different eligibility criteria and pay different amounts,” Weber explains. “Some send a full tuition payment to the school while others may only send a stipend directly to the student. Regardless, it is important for applicants to begin the benefit application process as early as possible.”

For students currently comparing ROTC benefits and programs, it is helpful to know that all are run according to the same standards, though each has unique benefits and operations due to their respective proximity to bases and other campuses with ROTC programs. APU ROTC cadets benefit from proximity to multiple bases in Southern California as well as other campuses with robust ROTC programs. In addition, the university’s commitment to providing support for military members and veterans is an added advantage.

Interested in becoming an ROTC cadet? Learn more about APU’s ROTC program and benefits.