My friend Michael Massing has a wonderful piece of reporting in the latest New York Review of Books on who is the volunteer army. It is not a statistical hodgepodge, no, he went to Fort Drum in Watertown, N.Y., to talk to people. The essential lesson he came back with is that people are going into the army because they cannot afford college, and the army will provide them with the job security/education that they would get from college.
In Canada and much of Europe, higher education is heavily subsidized
by the state, and the tuition at most institutions is nominal if not
free. As a result, practically anyone who wants to attend college and
is able to meet the admissions standards and pay for room and board can
do so. In America, we’ve elected to put our money elsewhere…
In the struggle of many young men and women to pay for a college
education, however, the military sees an opportunity. As a recent
Defense Department report observed:
The most dramatic social force affecting military
enlistment is the interest in college attendance. Youth are focused on education and work, with the Military
as an afterthought. The percentage of minorities completing high school
is increasing, and college is becoming a reality for a greater
proportion of the minority population. This increase in college
aspirations and college attendance should be expected to continue.
Already, the military, under the Montgomery GI Bill, offers soldiers
up to $73,836 in tuition credits; it will also repay up to $65,000 in
Egad. So the military exploits ambitious kids who cannot get in to college or afford it. More reason to bring back the draft!