Enlistment Effects and Policy Implications of the Educational Assistance Test Program

by Richard L. Fernandez

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During fiscal year 1981, the Department of Defense conducted a large-scale, Congressionally-mandated test of three alternative postservice educational benefit programs, designed to attract high-aptitude high school graduates into the military services. This report describes the origins, design, and limitations of the test, and presents analyses of the test results. Effects were measured relative to a control program, and were of two types: (1) enlistment effects, either gains (or losses), and (2) skill channeling effects — movements of recruits into the limited sets of military specialties eligible for the test programs. The principal policy implications of the test results were that (1) the requirement of the current program that service members contribute to their educational funds should be retained; (2) a program offered only in hard-to-fill skills is likely to be more cost effective than a general entitlement; and (3) Army recruiting might be hurt if a new program, even one more generous than the present, did not maintain the current Army "edge" in benefit levels.

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