Prompted by a conversation between Max Heninger ’14 and David Folsom ’17, a student pursuing Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) at the College, College Council (CC) recently proposed that the College eliminate scholarship displacement for military scholarships. With this policy, CC hoped to better honor the contributions of military students to the community both within the College and at large.
The current policy of “scholarship displacement” states that any outside grant students receive results in a reduction of the grant money the student would have otherwise received from the College. CC’s proposal to eliminate this policy did not pass through the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid; however, the proposal precipitated policy change, rendering the College among the most generous peer institutions for ROTC financial aid. The fundamental opposition to the total elimination of scholarship displacement lies in the commitment to awarding scholarships based on need and not merit.
Although the College did not pass the proposal, it did make several changes to the policy: “These awards [ROTC scholarships] are considered the same as outside scholarships and as such will first replace the student loan and term-time job components of the aid package. In addition, to recognize the extended service commitment of ROTC candidates, ROTC funding can then be used to reduce the family contribution determined by Williams to the federally determined family contribution (if it is less). Any remaining ROTC monies will reduce the Williams grant dollar-for-dollar.” In other words, ROTC students whose federally determined family contribution is less than the College determined family contribution will receive more financial aid.
“This policy change reaffirms Williams’ commitment to embracing diversity of all types by doing more to recruit military students,” Heninger said. “Hopefully, this move will lead to more ROTC pre-frosh giving Williams a closer look. Military students have a lot to give Williams. They provide a unique viewpoint on life that enriches everything at Williams from class discussions to late night conversations at Snack Bar. Obviously more needs to be done to recruit more military students to campus, but what happened this year was a positive step in the right direction.”
Folsom agrees “the policy is a step in the right direction” but said “I do not think it is enough … The change Williams made is a change that significantly helps my family, but it is a change that will not help many … others on military scholarships. The administration recognized the specialness in scholarships from the military … but stopped short of making a real difference for most potential military students.”
Folsom is currently committed the Air Force ROTC (AFROTC). In his view, the money the Air Force grants to college students functions primarily as a financial incentive for those students to become officers. If the student decides not to honor the “contract for a future commitment to serve,” ROTC will renege its financial assistance. As Folsom sees it, “scholarship displacement created a disincentive to enter into that contract, and therefore a disincentive to join the military.” Folsom explained that last year, two students who were planning to join AFROTC opted out when they learned about the policy.