The Pentagon is cutting low-performing ROTC programs. And the ax is falling harder in Tennessee than any other state.
Of the 13 college-based officer training units announced this month to be closed, three are at public universities in Tennessee – UT Martin, East Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech.
“I was freaking out because I had this all planned out,” TTU student Daniel McGee of Lynchburg says.
McGee is studying to be a civil engineer in Cookeville. His arrangement with the military pays for his tuition, room and board. He also gets a monthly stipend.
“I’m going to be pulling a lot of student loans,” says McGee, who has decided to stay and finish his degree and go to Officer Candidacy School after graduation.
More than 1,600 officers have been commissioned from TTU over the course of the program’s 63 years on campus. One student even went on to become a four star general.
But Tech is a relatively low producer. Most of the programs selected for closure have been graduating just 15 officers a year.
However, this is not a cost-cutting move by the Defense Department. The Pentagon plans to expand ROTC in urban areas as the military pushes to further diversify its officer ranks, which are still nearly three-quarters white.
“These closures are necessary changes that allow for more efficient use of available resources within the command, while maintaining a presence in all 50 states,” Karl Schneider, acting assistant secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, said in a written statement.
Colleges were notified in early October that next school year would be their last.
Tennessee Tech president Phil Oldham says it was a “cold, matter-of-fact call.”
TTU is doing what it can to change the military’s mind. Oldham says he refuses to accept the cuts “without a fight.”
The Pentagon made the announcement Oct. 2, a day after the start of a partial government shutdown. It received very little news coverage.
The ROTC programs selected for closure are:
University of South Dakota
Northern Michigan University
North Dakota State University
University of Wisconsin–La Crosse
Arkansas State University
University of Tennessee at Martin
University of North Alabama
Georgia Regents (Augusta State) University
University of Southern Mississippi
East Tennessee State University
Morehead State University
Tennessee Technological University
University of California–Santa Barbara