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In the United States, a senior military college (SMC) is one of six colleges that offer military Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) programs and are specifically recognized under 10 USC 2111a(f). The six senior military colleges are:

  • University of North Georgia; Dahlonega, Georgia
  • Norwich University; Northfield, Vermont
  • Texas A&M University; College Station, Texas
  • The Citadel; Charleston, South Carolina
  • Virginia Military Institute; Lexington, Virginia
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech); Blacksburg, Virginia

Under U.S. law and U.S. Army regulations, there are three types of ROTC programs administered, each with a different element. In addition to ROTC at senior military colleges, there are ROTC programs at civilian colleges and at military junior colleges.


Under Army regulation an SMC must meet certain criteria:[1]

  • Baccalaureate degrees must be granted.
  • All physically fit male students must take courses in military training. Exceptions to this requirement include foreign nationals, prior-service personnel, and students specifically excused by a professor of military science.
  • Outside ROTC, the school must establish a corps of cadets in which all students wear military uniforms. The corps of cadets involves a military environment in which the students live constantly, not just during the school day, and in which the students are subject to military discipline.
  • The SMC must have as an objective the development of character through military training and the regulation of cadet conduct according to principles of military discipline (a cadet code of conduct).
  • The SMC must maintain military standards similar to those of the federal service academies.

Federal law currently prohibits the Department of Defense from requiring a policy in SMCs that mandates female students' participation in the ROTC programs:

"Regulations . . . may not require a college or university, as a condition of maintaining its designation as a military college or for any other purpose, to require female undergraduate students enrolled in such college or university to participate in military training."[2]

Cadets at an SMC are authorized to take the ROTC program all four years, but taking a commission upon graduation remains optional, unlike other colleges where ROTC cadets are required to sign a contract to take commission before entering their final two years.

Under both AR 145-1 and federal law, the ROTC programs at the senior military colleges are treated differently. Unlike ROTC at other schools, the Department of Defense is prohibited from closing or reducing the ROTC programs at an SMC, even during time of war (full or total mobilization).

"The Secretary of Defense and the Secretaries of the military departments may not take or authorize any action to terminate or reduce a unit of the Senior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at a senior military college unless the termination or reduction is specifically requested by the college"[3] and Army "[SMC] ROTC programs will continue at an accelerated rate as directed."[1]

In contrast with other colleges and universities: "Under full or total mobilization, the Secretary of the Army may withdraw the ROTC detachments without giving prior notice to the academic institution. The establishment of new SROTC detachments will not be authorized after full mobilization has been declared." All MS-IV cadets at the senior military colleges will be commissioned and directed to attend the proper officers basic course (OBC). At other colleges, ROTC programs will be suspended and the cadre will immediately be available for reassignment.

Another distinction of the SMC system is that all cadets at the senior military colleges are guaranteed active duty commissions when they graduate:

"The Secretary of the Army shall ensure that a graduate of a senior military college who desires to serve as a commissioned officer on active duty upon graduation from the college, who is medically and physically qualified for active duty, and who is recommended for such duty by the professor of military science at the college, shall be assigned to active duty."


University of North Georgia

The University of North Georgia (UNG), also known as The Military College of Georgia, is located in Dahlonega, Georgia. Since its creation in 1873 as North Georgia Agricultural College, the college required undergraduate resident males to participate in the Corps of Cadets (the corps was optional for resident undergraduate females and all commuting or graduate students). North Georgia was also the first SMC to admit women into the Corps of Cadets.[4] The school has a large United States Army ROTC program and is the only senior military college without Navy/Marine Corps and Air Force programs.[5][6][7][8][9][10] All male resident students are no longer required to enroll in the military program.[11]

Norwich University

The oldest senior military college and the "Birthplace of ROTC",[12] Norwich University is a private university located in Northfield, Vermont. Founded in 1819 at Norwich, Vermont, as the American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy, it is the oldest[13] and currently only private military college in the United States. It is home to both a corps of cadets and a traditional civilian student population.[14]

Texas A&M University

The youngest of the SMCs, Texas A&M University was established under the Morrill Act of 1862 and cadets began classes in 1876.[15] During World War II, Texas A&M produced 20,229 Aggies who served in combat. Of those, 14,123 Aggies served as officers; more than the combined total of the United States Naval Academy and the United States Military Academy[16] and more than three times the totals of any other SMC.[17]

Texas A&M grew rapidly in the late 20th century and became the 4th largest university by enrollment in 2012. With an enrollment of 53,337 students,[18] of which approximately 2,200 are cadets,[19] Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas A&M is the largest of the SMCs by total student enrollment. Its corps and that of The Citadel are the top two by size.[nb 1] Of all the SMCs, US News & World Report ranked A&M as their highest national university (tied with Virginia Tech).[20][21]

The Citadel

The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, is a state-supported, comprehensive college located in Charleston, South Carolina and was founded in 1842. The Citadel enrolls 2,300 undergraduate cadets in The South Carolina Corps of Cadets and 1,200 civilian students in the evening programs of the Citadel Graduate College which includes a large master's degree program and a small number of students pursuing Bachelors degrees in a 2+2 program in cooperation with Trident Technical College. The Citadel also offers a distance learning on-line graduate degree program. The South Carolina Corps of Cadets is the largest uniformed student body aside from the Federal service academies; with the exception of active duty military students and a small number of veterans all full-time students are members of the Cadet Corps and are required to be enrolled in ROTC; The Citadel is the nations top commissioning source for college ROTC programs and ranks behind only the federal service academies in production of military officers. Active duty Marine and Navy personnel also attend cadet classes as part of the MECEP and STA-21 programs which commissions highly qualified NCOs; the MECEP program originated at The Citadel in 1973.[22][23]

Virginia Military Institute

Founded in 1839 in Lexington, Virginia, the Virginia Military Institute is the oldest state military college in the United States.[24] VMI has been called the "West Point of the South" because of its role during the Civil War. Unlike any other senior military college in the United States, VMI enrolls only military cadets and grants baccalaureate degrees exclusively.

In addition to the accomplishments of its graduates in civilian endeavors, VMI is the only military college in the United States to graduate the highest ranking four-star generals across three services: Marine Corps Commandants and Chiefs of Staff of the Army and the Air Force. VMI is also the only SMC in the United States to graduate a five-star general: General of the Army George C. Marshall.[25][nb 2]

VMI was the highest ranked senior military college in Forbes magazine's 2012 "America's Best Colleges List".[26]

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Virginia Tech (in full, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University), located in Blacksburg, Virginia, is one of only three major universities (along with Texas A&M and North Georgia) to host a senior military college as part of a larger civilian university. The Corps of Cadets has existed since Virginia Tech's 1872 founding; membership was mandatory for all male students during their entire term at the school until 1924 when the requirement was reduced to two years. After World War II, prior-service students were not required to enter the Corps, and in 1964 Corps membership was made voluntary for all non-ROTC students. Women had been admitted to the school as civilian students since 1921, but were not permitted to join the Corps until 1973.[27] Members of the Corps may participate in ROTC programs leading to an officer's commission or simply in Corps drill and military life ("Corps Only") on campus.[28]

U.S. Coast Guard Direct Commission Selective Schools (DCSS)

Graduates of the six Senior Military Colleges as well as Mary Baldwin College and Prairie View A&M University are allowed to commission into the U.S. Coast Guard under the Direct Commission Selective School (DCSS) program.[29]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "AR 145-1 (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps)". Army Regulation. United States Army. 1996. Retrieved 2008-09-04. 
  2. "10 U.S.C. § 2009". United States Code. Legal Information Institute. 1985. Retrieved October 1, 2012. 
  3. "10 USC 2111a(d)". United States Code. Legal Information Institute. Retrieved October 1, 2012. 
  4. Career Services – Employers
  5. "Norwich University". Retrieved 7 December 2011. 
  6. "Military Focus". Retrieved 7 December 2011. 
  7. "Virginia Military Institute". Retrieved 7 December 2011. 
  8. "The Citadel / Financial Aid / Cadet Scholarships / ROTC Scholarships". 9 November 2009. Retrieved 7 December 2011. 
  9. "About the Corps | Corps of Cadets | Virginia Tech". Retrieved 7 December 2011. 
  10. NGCSU – The Military College of Georgia
  11. "North Georgia College & State University". Retrieved 7 December 2011. 
  12. Walker, Lauren K. (15 April 2012). "Upward-Facing Soldier". The New York Times. p. 33. 
  13. Axe, David (February 28, 2007). Army 101: Inside ROTC in a Time of War. University of South Carolina Press. p. 11. ISBN 978-1-57003-660-6. Retrieved October 1, 2012. 
  14. "Norwich University". Retrieved 7 December 2011. 
  15. Simons, William E. (2000). Professional Military Education in the United States: a Historical Dictionary. Greenwood Press. p. 307. ISBN 978-0-313-29749-6. Retrieved 5 October 2012. 
  16. "Texas A&M Standard". 2007-02-27. Archived from the original on 2007-02-03. Retrieved 2007-02-27. 
  17. Adams, John A. (August 1, 2001). Keepers of the Spirit: The Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University, 1876-2001. Texas A&M University Press. p. 160. ISBN 978-1-58544-126-6. Retrieved October 1, 2012. 
  18. Texas A&M University – Enrollment Profile Fall 2011 (PDF)
  20. "America's Top Colleges". Forbes. Retrieved 2 September 2011. 
  21. "America's Best Colleges". US News & World Report. Retrieved 2 September 2011. 
  22. "MECEP". Retrieved 7 December 2011. 
  23. "STA 21". Retrieved 7 December 2011. 
  26. "America's Top Colleges". Forbes. Retrieved 2 April 2012. 
  27. Reed, David (April 26, 1996). "75 Years Later, Tech Women Still Face Challenges". The Free Lance-Star. Fredericksburg, Va.. p. C6.,4739722. Retrieved October 1, 2012. 
  28. About the Corps. Corps of Cadets, Virginia Tech


  1. The Citadel and Texas A&M both boast corps in excess of 2000 as of 2012 and are comparable in size, but specific numbers fluctuate throughout the school year for various reasons.
  2. The following Americans have been promoted to five-star rank or above:
          •   General of the Armies John J Pershing 3 September 1919
          •   Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy 15 December 1944
          •   General of the Army George Marshall 16 December 1944
          •   Fleet Admiral Ernest King 17 December 1944
          •   General of the Army Douglas MacArthur 18 December 1944
          •   Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz 19 December 1944
          •   General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower 20 December 1944
          •   General of the Army & Air Force Henry H. Arnold     21 December 1944 & 7 May 1949
          •   Fleet Admiral William Halsey, Jr. 11 December 1945
          •   General of the Army Omar Bradley 20 September 1950
          •   General of the Armies George Washington 4 July 1976a

    The timing of the first seven appointments established both a clear order of seniority and a near-equivalence between the Army and Navy services. In 1949, Arnold was honored by being made the first, and to date only, General of the Air Force. He is the only American to serve in a five-star rank in two of its military services.

    Of these generals, only Marshall and Washington did not graduate from one of the service academies. Washington never graduated from college and Marshall graduated from VMI.

    By a Congressional Act of March 24, 1903, Admiral George Dewey's rank was established as Admiral of the Navy, a rank which was specified to be senior to the four-star rank of admiral and was equal to admiral of the fleet in the British Royal Navy. Admiral Dewey was the only individual ever appointed to this rank, which lapsed with his death on January 16, 1917.

    ^a During the United States Bicentennial year, George Washington was posthumously appointed to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States by the congressional joint resolution Public Law 94-479 passed on January 19, 1976, with an effective appointment date of July 4, 1976. This restored Washington's position as the most senior U.S. military officer.

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