BERKELEY – Officials with the University of California, Berkeley are reported Saturday that the school’s ROTC, or Reserved Office Training Corps, programs have seen a surge in enrollment this year.
About 35 freshmen are currently enrolled in the Navy program – a 75 percent increase from last year, the university reported. Last year’s Army ROTC program had eight freshman. Twelve are enrolled this fall, bringing the Army’s total up to 48. The Air Force program has seen its total enrollment jump from 45 students last year to 62 this year.
The Marine Corps Program, which operates with the Navy’s under NROTC, has five freshmen this year and that's “an extraordinary leap, considering that last year we had three people in the whole program,” says Marine Corps Lt. Col. Michael Broihier.
What’s more, UC Berkeley officials say, is that many of the new recruits don’t exactly fit the stereotype of an ROTC student. Sophomore Anna Elzeftawy, for example, sports a stud in her nose. The mechanical engineering major has a goal to reach by joining the military program.
“I want to fly and eventually be an astronaut,” she said.
Both university and ROTC officials chalk up the spike in enrollment to the dwindling economy, since the military often helps pay for enlistees’ educations.
“With the bad economy, families are finding themselves with less money for college,” said Capt. Lee Rosenberg, commanding officer of the NROTC and UC Berkeley’s military affairs program director.
Another reason is the increase in patriotism since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“September 11 was very frightening for people and many of them wanted to do something,” Rosenberg said.
Some might find it surprising that the military program is so popular at a campus best known for its activism and anti-war protests, but that doesn't bother the ROTC members.
“It’s not about who's patriotic and who’s not,” said Mike Seltzer, a former AFROTC student who graduated from Cal in May. “I think Berkeley's very patriotic in the original sense of the word... true patriotism is to voice your opinion and question things, not blindly follow your leaders.”