Since the 2007 recession, military active services and reserves have met or exceeded their Fiscal Year recruitment goals and college students’ interest has also increased, according to Marine Corps Capt. Elan Greenberg.
“We have seen an increase in currently enrolled college students inquiring about the benefits service to our nation as a commissioned Marine Corps officer,” Greenberg said. “Anecdotal evidence suggests that the economy is making people consider us for the tangible benefits, but experience shows us that only someone truly committed to becoming a Marine officer will complete the process.”
Military branches vary in the benefits they provide, but some factors like salary while receiving education and military training, scholarships, healthcare, family services and support groups remain consistent.
Ashley Espin, 21, joined the U.S Air Force in 2011 after struggling to juggle life between two jobs, participating on the volleyball team and attending NYC College of Technology. Espin works in personnel and human resources during the day and attends school at University of Alaska Anchorage Community and Technical College University during the evenings.
“Everyone joins for different reasons, the most common are: school, military background and pride in serving their country and traveling,” Espin said.
Espin said everyone she works with is enrolled in college and many who have already been enlisted for a few years have associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
“The recession might have something to do with [college student’s enlistment in recent years]; the military helps out in the sense that it provides security to many,” Espin added. “We get a certain amount to pay our rent every month, food and if you have dependents you get dependent rate on top of your base pay. Not to mention our medical care — we are seen whenever we want to be seen, we don’t have to pay for any medication for ourselves and our dependents.”
National Priorities Project, a non-governmental organization that works to clarify federal budget information, said although the data does not suggest a strong statistical connection between unemployment rates and recruit rates, other factors lend support to recruiter’s assertions that the poor economy is driving candidates to seek out the armed forces as a career choice.
In 2011, the army set a goal that 90 percent of recruits would have at least a high school diploma after a NPP study found 80 percent of recruits with a high school diploma will complete their first term of enlistment while up to half of those with alternative credentials or no diploma will drop out.
Qikun Tan, a junior at Queens College, joined the Marine Corps. after his freshman year in college to become a mortarman. While Tan agreed some people join the military for the financial benefits he said he joined because he realized there were people he loved that he wanted to protect.
“For the Marine Corp, we have the least amount of funding. I’m paying college out of my own pocket, the Military does have a G.I Bill, but it doesn’t benefit you until you’ve been into combat; pay is not that great,” said Tan. “I’m pretty sure some would join the military for the money, it’s possible for the Army, Navy and Air Force because they have a decent amount of funding.”
NPP’s previous years of analysis have been adjusted to reflect a candidate pool of 18-24-year-olds instead of the 15-24 standard used previously. This may be due to standards adjustments for potential candidates such as the Army discontinuance of its program to help enlistees earn their GED as part of their training in 2010. In 2011, the maximum enlistment age was also lowered for the Army from 42 to 35 years old thus altering when applicants can apply.
The Air Force, Marines, Army and Navy accept very few applicants whose education does not extend beyond high school or a GED, lending high recruitment efforts toward CUNY students.
“I work with all CUNY schools, and I regularly submit applications from full-time students and recent graduates. CUNY students are active applicants to our programs, and they show a strong desire to serve their country and their community,” Greenberg said.