My uncle teaches at the Air Force academy. His son (my cousin) is attending the Naval Academy. I’ve known a lot of people who aspired to attend, and/or did attend, military colleges, and the primary reason for all of them was duty and honor and prestige. But also, not many in my circle were at risk of not being able to attend college otherwise due to prohibitive costs, so biased sample size I am certain.
There are better ways to get a free or cheap education. Like serving in the military first and then going to school after. And, you don’t even need good test scores to take advantage of that.
A few people from my class entered the service academies and I don’t think any of them were poor. You probably need to at least have the connections to get that congressman recommendation. They weren’t the highest scoring people test wise but did do stuff like JROTC to prepare.
I think most of the poor people who enter the military for the benefits are enlisted.
I think there was a mix of what I was remembering from when I was a cadet and actual cadet pay.
In general, when cadets interact with other soldiers (which they usually do starting their 3rd year), they’re warranted the level of an E-5 (rank of the lowest Non-Commissioned Officer pay grade) in terms of “respect” and “authority”. Not officially granted by regulation, but given the following, it is usually a reasonable starting point.
A cadet at the United States Military Academy, the United States Air Force Academy, or the Coast Guard Academy, or a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, is entitled to monthly cadet pay, or midshipman pay, at the monthly rate equal to 35 percent of the basic pay of a commissioned officer in the pay grade O–1 with less than two years of service.
Based on the current pay schedule, this would be $3,386 * 35% = $1,185.10 per month. (This is the amount that federal & state income tax is based on, and the cadet still doesn’t see all of this amount as some is placed in a Cadet Account from which expenses that officers generally pay for (e.g., uniforms, personal grooming services, etc.) are used to pay.)
An E-5’s pay is $2,542 per month. I think some might get the “E-5” idea from the pay grade for an Officer Candidate (from the same link as above):
An officer candidate enrolled in the basic officer training program of the commissioned officer corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is entitled, while participating in such program, to monthly officer candidate pay at monthly rates equal to the basic pay of an enlisted member in the pay grade E–5 with less than two years of service.
The relationship of any Senior Military College to the U.S. military is the same for any other university/college with an ROTC program–it is just that all (physically capable) students are required to take “ROTC courses” along with some other requirements (outlined in the above link).
Note that any other university, any student can also enroll in ROTC courses. But completing the ROTC curriculum doesn’t guarantee a job with the military after graduation; even with a scholarship**. Graduate from a Service Academy not only guarantees a job, but incurs an 8-year obligation to serve in the military.
** A job is guaranteed provided there is a “slot” and need for the individual. Usually, those from the Service Academies are slotted first. Then those “remaining” are ranked for slotting into positions. If there are more cadets (i.e., those from a SMC and ROTC programs) than slots remaining, some will not be commissioned.
False equivalency. To enroll at a service academy, you not only have to be accepted by the academy, you also need a “sponsor” in the form of a nomination (from a U.S. Congressperson or an officer in the rank of O-6 or higher) as well as pass a physical fitness evaluation.
Need to be smart to get the nomination (not required for getting accepted), and not many smart kids will pass the evaluation (which is required).