Academy sees drop this fall in applicants

Navy says 20 percent dip, first since Sept. 11 attacks, is not a cause for concern

October 02, 2004|By Molly Knight | Molly Knight,SUN STAFF

As U.S. troops face escalating violence in Iraq, the Naval Academy has seen the number of applicants to the Annapolis military college drop by about 20 percent compared with the same time last year.

School officials said that as of Sept. 24, 9,031 students had applied for acceptance into the Class of 2009, compared with 11,273 applicants a year ago.

Although the admissions deadline is not until Jan. 31, the drop of about 2,000 applications represents the first reduction in four years, since before the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

Members of the academy's admissions board said yesterday that the dip is not cause for concern, noting that applications remain significantly higher than they were in the years before Sept. 11, 2001, after which the school saw a spike in applications. The Class of 2006 attracted more than 14,000 applicants, the highest number in 12 years.

"We are still choosing around 1,500 students from a pool of more than 10,000," said Col. David V. Vetter, dean of admissions. "And we're seeing the quality of the applicants improve every year, so I can't say this is at all a worry."

When asked whether the increasing violence in Iraq - where more than 1,000 U.S. troops have been killed, including a Naval Academy graduate who died last month - is deterring students from applying, Vetter said he could only speculate.

"I think the current situation is difficult, and there is some fallout there," he said.

The U.S. Military Academy, the service academy that has sent the largest number of graduates into combat in Iraq, has also seen its application numbers fall for the Class of 2009. As of this week, West Point has received 8,000 applications, compared with 8,700 at this time last year.

But admissions officials at the military academy said that they, too, remain unconcerned - particularly because that school's application deadline, March 1, is five months away.

"I can't say they are down because of any one thing," said Maj. Dale Smith, the academy's admissions officer. "But I can say that we're still ahead of where we were before Sept. 11, 2001, so a drop is less of a concern."

West Point received 7,600 applications for the Class of 2005. In the years since, the school has averaged 11,000 applications a year, Smith said.

Smith added that he's not surprised to see the school's post-9/11 spike level off.

"I don't think violence in the war is turning people off," he said. "I think it's more that we're further from that day now and it's become more of a memory - particularly for the kids who are applying now."

An Air Force Academy spokesman said the number of applications has hovered around 12,000 in recent years, although the college received more than 16,000 in 2002.

Representatives of the Air Force and Merchant Marine academies said they were not able to provide preliminary tallies of applications for the Class of 2009.

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