Coast Guard Officer Program Offers College Tuition, Job Guarantee

By Katie Lange
Defense Media Activity

There are several scholarship programs that can help college students commission as officers into various military branches. When it comes to the Coast Guard, however, there’s only one.

It’s called the College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative, and it actually began as a way to improve the diversity of the Coast Guard officer corps. It still does bring in motivated and talented college students of diverse backgrounds, but it also gives those students up to two years of paid tuition and fees for their last two years of college.

I’m interested. What other benefits does it offer students?  

A monthly salary of up to $3,600 as an enlisted service member.

A housing allowance, as well as health and educational benefits.

A GUARANTEED JOB after graduation with a starting salary of about $60,000 per year.

Now I’m definitely interested. What are the requirements?

Candidates have to be between 19 and 28 years old and a U.S. citizen.

One of the major requirements is where you’re going to school. Eligible students must be going to or are about to start at a minority-serving institution. This means historically black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, tribal colleges and universities and various Native American-serving institutions. Other schools may qualify on a case-by-case basis (for instance, if your school has a high minority student population), so if you’re not sure about yours, check with your local recruiter. Online degrees don’t qualify.

For more on the requirements, click here.

Former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and Capt. Michael Day, commander of Coast Guard Sector New York, look as Jeh Johnson Jr., college student participating in the Coast Guard College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative, points while underway aboard a Station New York 45-foot Response Boat-Medium in the New York Harbor, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Frank Iannazzo-Simmons

During & After Graduation

If you’re eligible, yay! Next, you have to complete basic training, maintain at least a 2.5 grade-point average and work a minimum of four hours a week at a Coast Guard unit or recruiting office.

After your junior year, you’ll get three weeks of leadership training during the summer in New London, Connecticut. Then, once you graduate from college, you’ll have to complete Officer Candidate School, which involves 17 weeks of training to build leadership and teamwork skills, and it preps you for success as a ensign.

During OCS, you’ll compete with other candidates for assignments within one of four main officer operational specialties: afloat, aviation, prevention or response. Most are with a Coast Guard sector (shore-based unit), Coast Guard cutter (on a commissioned vessel) or an aviation training billet (pilot training).

A Real-Life Example

Coast Guard Ensign Gabriella Deza, an apprentice marine inspector, used the CSPI program after finding out about it when she was a sophomore at Florida Memorial University in Miami. The program paid her last two years of tuition, as well as books, fees, and even a salary of $3,600 a month.

She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical science and is now working with a team at the ports in New York City, making sure ships from all over the world looking to dock in the Big Apple meet safety and security standards.

Deza also applied to the Coast Guard’s guaranteed flight school program, the Wilk’s Flight Initiative, and was recently accepted. She hopes to one day become a helicopter pilot.

To find out more about Deza’s story, watch the video above. If you’re interested in applying for CSPI, click here for more details.

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