The U.S. Army hopes to recruit as many as 6,000 dropouts who would earn high-school-equivalency diplomas during their time in the military, under a three-year pilot program announced this month.
Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera joined U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley and retired Army Gen. Colin Powell at the Pentagon Feb. 3 to unveil the “GED Plus” program, which will be offered to new recruits through Sept. 30, 2003.
The program is aimed at students who left high school to work or take care of family responsibilities. Students who were expelled from school are not eligible.
To participate in the program, dropouts must have been out of high school for at least a year and be too old to return. They must also score in the top 50 percent on an Armed Forces qualification test that measures ability in mathematics, writing, and oral communication, and in the top 75 percent on a test that measures motivation.
Recruits would attend a General Educational Development program, supervised by Army officials, to prepare them for taking the GED exam.
In another initiative announced the same day, Army officials said they would begin offering a “College First” program that will allow students to enlist, attend college for up to two years, and then serve a term of service.
While in college, participants must serve in the Army’s delayed-entry program or a reserve program. Students in the delayed-entry program will receive a monthly allowance of $150.
Both initiatives are designed to draw recruits during a time when the economy is strong, unemployment is low, and more young people are going to college.
“It is a very competitive market for everyone,” Army public-affairs officer Paul Boyce said. “We are trying to make [the Army] more attractive for youth. What we are offering is more options.”
While the Army has always accepted applicants without a high school diploma, until two years ago it limited their enlistment to 5 percent of the total number of recruits. In 1998, the Army and other branches of the military—amid concerns about meeting enlistment goals—raised the ceiling to 10 percent.
John Emekli, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education who attended the Pentagon press conference, said the Army’s new programs should not be viewed as a lowering of standards.
“These initiatives are consistent with our academic goals of raising standards throughout the country,” Mr. Emekli said. “This will give young people a second chance.”
A version of this article appeared in the February 16, 2000 edition of Education Week as Army Launches Plan To Recruit High School Dropouts