This Day in the Law
June 3

Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Established (1916)

On June 3, 1916, the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) was established by the United States Congress. ROTC is a college-based officer commissioning program designed as a college elective that focuses on leadership development, problem solving, strategic planning, and professional ethics.

The concept of ROTC in the United States began with the Morrill Act of 1862, which established the land-grant colleges. Land-grant colleges are colleges which were given state-owned land by the government in order to establish programs that taught practical skills (as opposed to “higher learning”) on a college level. Part of the federal government’s requirement for these schools was that they include military tactics as part of their curriculum. On June 3, 1916, these military tactics programs officially became the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps under an act of Congress.

The first college to have an ROTC program was Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont. All of the U.S. Armed Forces, with the exception of the Coast Guard, offer merit-based scholarships to ROTC students. These scholarships often cover full tuition for college in exchange for extended periods of active military service. For example, in the Army ROTC, students who receive an Army ROTC scholarship or enter the Army ROTC Advanced Course must agree to complete an eight-year period of service with the Army after college.

ROTC participation has been completely voluntary since the 1960s, before which some universities required it for all male students. Today, ROTC graduates constitute 39% of all active duty officers in the United States Armed Forces.