Army Recruits Fewer High School Grads
After years of being stretched thin by war, the Army is enlisting fewer “high quality” recruits.
The percent of Army recruits with a high school diploma dropped last year, continuing a trend that has worsened since the start of the Iraq war, according to a report released Tuesday.
National Priorities Project, a research group that analyzes federal data, found that nearly 71 percent of Army recruits graduated from high school in the 2007 budget year. It based its findings on data it obtained from the Defense Department through a Freedom of Information Act request.
All troops must have a high school diploma or an equivalent degree. The military prefers that they have a high school diploma because its studies have shown they are more likely to finish an enlistment term. Still, the Army has paid for some recruits to take GED preparation classes and take the test. The Army’s goal is 90 percent high school graduates, which it hasn’t met since 2004. Each year since, the number of recruits with at least a high school diploma has steadily declined.
The National Priorities Project said the percent of “high-quality” recruits — those with a high school diploma who scored in the top half on the military’s qualification test — declined from budget years 2004 to 2007. In that period, the number of high-quality recruits fell from about 61 percent to nearly 45 percent, the group said.
It also found that in the 2007 budget year, upper middle- and high-income neighborhoods were underrepresented by an even larger margin than three years earlier.
None of this is surprising, of course. It’s hard to get people to volunteer for the Army during long, unpopular wars. And, obviously, it’s even more difficult to attract those with better alternative choices.
This is map somewhat interesting, though:
While the fact that they used the same color palette for positive and negative growth makes it stand out much less, we see that recruiting has actually increased in much of the southeast and southwest. Presumably, that reflects a combination of cultural and economic factors. Still, while most of the media attention focuses on black-white and rich-poor disparities, the major difference would seem to be urban-rural.
UPDATE: SFC Thomas Nichols offers a much more positive assessment of the current recruiting picture, noting that both the Active Army and Army National Guard are meeting or exceeding targets.