Hitting the Books Before Military Service: Policy Options for Recruiting in the College Market
Jan 1, 2004
Results from a National Survey
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The armed services prefer to recruit high-quality youth because of their better performance and lower attrition. However, high-quality youth are increasingly interested in attending college. Existing policies targeted toward the college market are likely to continue to be effective, but new policies must be developed to successfully penetrate this market further. This monograph reports on a research project that developed and implemented a national survey of college youth and analyzed the results. The survey offered respondents a series of hypothetical programs that would allow enlistees to attend college before accession into the military, and they were asked to rate their level of enlistment interest under each program. A $65,000 college loan repayment program as part of a "college-before-accession" program had the largest effect on college market youth's probability of expressing a positive propensity to enlist, producing an increase in probability of over 50 percent. The survey also provides corroborating evidence on the importance of college dropouts as a source of high-quality recruits. Allowing college dropouts to enlist directly without first returning to college was associated with a stronger stated enlistment interest. In addition to programs such as loan repayment as part of a "college-before-accession" program, the authors conclude that if the services are to be successful in the college market, they must have in place an appropriate management infrastructure-such as incentive mechanisms for recruiters and an advertising campaign that supports recruiters' efforts.
The research described in this report was sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). The research was conducted in the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center supported by the OSD, the Joint Staff, the unified commands, and the defense agencies.
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