Florida A&M University’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program builds character, instills leadership skills and teaches lessons invaluable to its members, but now some students are joining the program for other reasons not quite the norm.
According to Lt. Col. Jeffrey Williams, the administrator of the Army/ROTC program, members receive up to a $1,400 stipend and scholarships to cover the cost of room and board and tuition.
Students are taking advantage of this and joining to reap the financial benefits.
Alexandria McCloud, a junior biology student, said money is initially why she joined the ROTC program. Her older brother, who is also in the program, said ROTC was his primary way of paying for school at the time.
“I wouldn’t be able to afford college if I weren’t in the program unless I took out loans,” the Miami native said. “The ROTC is like my job. My room and board is covered and I receive a stipend of $450 a month.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony Branson Magee, Jr., a fifth- year political science student, is currently active in the program. However, the 22-year-old Palm Beach native said he wasn’t always sure if he wanted to go into the military.
After leaving ROTC his sophomore year he realized he missed the program and the people in it, so he rejoined.
Not everyone involved in the program is as concerned with the financial benefits though.
“If you come into the ROTC program thinking about money, you’re not going to last,” Magee said.
“People in this program are leaders, the financial gain is just a plus. We also teach our cadets how to manage money. I believe the ROTC is a great program but everyone can’t do it.”
Ronald Penn Jr., a sophomore accounting student from Seoul, South Korea said his main objective was to attend an HBCU with a good ROTC program. He said the financial benefits are helpful but isn’t the only reason he joined.
“I receive $100,000 for all four years which means I pay for nothing,” the 19-year-old said. ” I receive a stipend on the 1st and the 15th of the month and I receive $600 a semester for books.”
Penn said that besides the money, the program is designed to help you succeed.
“The good thing about the program is that it teaches you to lead, keeps you grounded, disciplined and decisive,” he said. “It will make you an all around leader and these are the qualities that will make someone successful in any field of work.”
The stipend may be convenient but Penn was interested regardless.
“There is a certain percentage in every program that joins the military for financial purposes, but if you don’t perform like we need you to, or if you think you can skate through then we will weed you out,” Penn said. “We only have four years to create a strong soldier so if you’re not serious then you have to get out.”