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The University of Minnesota’s Navy ROTC unit has students from two other schools but still only had 13 graduates in 2012.
Another round of cuts could lead to further consolidation or decommissioned units.
“It is difficult to conclude whether a small ROTC unit is a good idea without knowing more about the benefits,” said Ilia Murtazashvili, a University of Pittsburgh professor who co-authored “Arms and the University,” a book examining the role of ROTC on college campuses.
Campus and beyond
Minnesota ranks 25th nationally in turning out military officers through ROTC, with the three units at the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus providing nearly half of the 130 graduates.
Elk River native Michael Driscoll, 26, served a tour of duty in Iraq before enrolling at the University of St. Thomas on an Army ROTC scholarship. He attends the U’s Twin Cities Army ROTC unit, which has more than 100 cadets on campus this year. But his peers in other programs face the threat of cuts as they prepare for military careers.
In-state reductions would complicate Minnesota National Guard efforts to recruit officers, said Capt. Eric Lewanski, the Guard’s lead recruiter.
Since 2010, roughly 25 percent of new officers in the state’s National Army Guard have come through the ROTC ranks.
Nationwide, more than 53,000 college students are enrolled in ROTC units, including hundreds in Minnesota.
The ROTC program provides 48 percent of the armed forces’ annual requirement for new junior officers — about twice as many as the nation’s service academies, according to the GAO report.
“If you take [ROTC] … that may turn away some otherwise fully qualified leaders from joining the military,” said Lewanski, a Gustavus Adolphus College graduate who completed Army ROTC training at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
“They consistently produce officers that are an important part of our force,” he said.
Corey Mitchell is a correspondent in the Star Tribune Washington Bureau. Twitter: @C_C_Mitchell
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