<p>Here is the response to the original piece, for those interested:</p>
<p>As the Director of Communications at West Point, I feel compelled to respond. The cost to educate a student at a service academy is approximately the same as at any of the top tier universities, but the value is far greater than the cost.
Our diverse nation needs diverse higher education opportunities and the service academies provide a unique experience that strengthens our nation.
We provide not only 20% of the Army’s second lieutenants, but also 60% of the officers with hard science degrees—and our Army needs those skills. Furthermore, our cadets, faculty and staff are actively engaged in supporting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and West Point itself is a beacon of excellence that people around the country, indeed around the world, see as an example of all that is best in America: a truly national, egalitarian institution with a true belief in the values of duty, honor, country. I am not a graduate of West Point, but I don’t want to live in an America without a West Point.
Mr. Rick’s article has 6 specific arguments to address:</p>
<p>Point 1. “service academies [are] more than twice as expensive as taking in graduates of civilian schools ($300,000 per West Point product vs. $130,000 for ROTC student).”
Rebuttal 1. A more accurate figure for the 4 year experience here is $202,000, which is equivalent to the 4-year cost of graduating a student from any of the country’s top-tier universities . . . and those students generally take more than 4 years to graduate. And college and universities across the nation also receive funding from federal and state governments. An accurate cost comparison takes a lot more analysis than shown in this op-ed.</p>
<p>P2. “On top of the economic advantage, I've been told by some commanders that they prefer officers who come out of ROTC programs, because they tend to be better educated and less cynical about the military.”
R2. I can’t address this specifically, as this is his personal anecdotal evidence, but this has not been my experience in 29 years in the Army—and I was commissioned through Univ. of Mass. ROTC.</p>
<p>P3. “Too often they're getting community-college educations.”
R3. Nothing against the many fine Community Colleges, but in the past year alone, three national organizations have ranked West Point in the top 10 of all 4,000 colleges and universities in the nation:
• Forbes.com ranked West Point as the sixth best college or university in America as well as the most “surprising” pick—surprising even Mr. Ricks apparently . . . and West Point finished ahead of his alma mater, Yale
• U.S. News and World Report says West Point is the “Top Public Liberal Arts College” [the Naval Academy was second] and has the fifth-best “Undergraduate Engineering Program” in the nation.
• StateUniversity.com said West Point was the sixth best in the nation, behind only Stanford, MIT, Princeton, Cornell, and CalTech. (Again ahead of Mr. Rick’s Yale.)
Furthermore, in the past century West Pont graduates have been awarded more than 80 Rhodes Scholarships, 4th most in the nation behind only Harvard, Yale and Princeton. Just last year our Cadet First Captain Jason Crabtree was so honored.</p>
<p>P4. “most of West Point's faculty lacks doctorates.”
R4. All of our faculty have advanced degrees, but approximately 50% are rotating faculty, active duty officers who do not have a doctorate. However, I challenge Mr. Ricks to actually walk around campuses of America’s “elite” schools and see how many undergraduate classes are being taught by teaching assistants—smart, hardworking and dedicated, but usually without even a master’s degree. There are no teaching assistants at West Point and the largest class here has 18 students—the Dean has to approve any class with 19 or more students. </p>
<p>P5. [Send to ROTC and] “they also would be educated alongside future doctors, judges, teachers, executives, mayors and members of Congress.”
R5. West Point cadets ARE future doctors, judges, teachers, executives, mayors and members of congress. While their military successes are legendary, their impact on the civilian world is just as great.
Currently, Dave Heineman is Governor of Nebraska; Rhesa Barksdale is a U. S. judge; William Taylor, Jr. is Ambassador to Ukraine; Fletcher Lamkin is President of Westminster College; Daniel Kaufman is President of Georgia Gwinnett College; Marshall Carter is Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange; Marshall Larsen is Chairman and CEO of Goodrich; and Michael Krzyzewski is the Duke basketball coach. And 6 members of Congress either graduated from West Point or were on the faculty.</p>
<p>P6. “We should also consider closing the services' war colleges . . . Just ask David Petraeus, a Princeton PhD.”
R6. Mr. Ricks closing example is outrageous in an article with the headline “Why We Should Get Rid of West Point” as General Petraeus is both a graduate of West Point and a member of our what we call our second graduating class, having been an asst. professor here in the mid-1980s.</p>