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Study Finds No Competition for Graduates Between the Military and Higher Education

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The increasing attractiveness of military service for some high-school graduates does not pose a competitive threat to higher education, a new report by the American Council on Education concludes.

The study rebuts claims that recruitment by the armed forces has reduced the proportion of high-school graduates going on to college. The slight rise in the percentage of recent male graduates joining the military between 1979 and 1986, it notes, was more than matched by the increase in those going on to college.

And, it says, the educational benefits provided under the New G.I. Bill will in fact be a boon to colleges.

"Over the past decade," the report says, "it appears that both the colleges and the military have cast their nets more widely but, in aggregate terms, have not cut into each other's share of high-school graduates."

At the same time, it notes, the share of male high-school graduates directly entering the workforce has decreased, from almost 42 percent in 1979 to 34 percent in 1986.

But the picture for black males dif4fers significantly, the report says. Both colleges and the armed forces have attracted a declining proportion of recent high-school graduates from that group, it notes.

Instead, it says, more black males are entering the workforce soon after graduation. In 1986, some 46 percent of recent black male graduates were counted as members the labor force, whether employed or unemployed. That proportion was 6 percentage points higher than in 1979.

Over the same period, the report says, the percentage of young black male graduates not working, not enrolled in college, and not serving in the military more than doubled, from 6 percent to 13 percent.

That proportion includes those not actively seeking jobs, as well as those attending trade or technical schools.

The study, "Joining Forces: The Military's Impact on College Enrollments," was written by Holly Hexter, an ace staff writer, and Elaine El-Khawas, the group's vice president for policy analysis and research.

The authors say several factors have enabled the military to meet its personnel needs without seriously affecting college enrollments: improved retention rates for enlisted personnel, the increased proportion of female recruits, and the growth in the pool of high-school graduates through 1979.

Any enrollment losses due to greater "competitive pressures" from the armed services in coming years, they write, are likely to be "more than offset by the extent to which the military brings business to higher education" by offering educational aid.

For example, they note, the number of veterans and reservists enrolled in colleges could jump by 25 percent by 1993 as a result of the New G.I. Bill, which took effect in 1985. The program--a successor to the original G.I. Bill of Rights adopted after World II--provides up to $10,800 in education aid for a three-year enlistment.

Copies of the report are available from the ace, Division of Policy Analysis and Research, One Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C. 20036-1193. The cost is $5 for members and $8 for nonmembers.--mw

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