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ROTC students at SOU receive two-year scholarships

ASHLAND — For the first time in nearly two decades, full federal Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarships have been awarded at Southern Oregon University.

The three two-year scholarships for SOU juniors Thomas Blaser, Justin Neville and Owen Lee will pay their full tuition and living expenses while they attend school. The scholarships are each worth more than $18,000 per year.

The ROTC program resumed at SOU this fall after it was discontinued at the school in 1993 because of the Army's reduction in force.

The university offers the only ROTC program between Sacramento and Eugene. All told, about 40 scholarships are available, said Keith Ensley, a professor of military science and a lieutenant colonel in the Oregon Army National Guard who served in Afghanistan.

"The word really isn't out yet fully about the scholarships," he said, although the program has more than 60 inquiries since October, he noted.

"I have met with talented folks from Seattle to San Francisco," he said. "This is an exciting time to be involved in ROTC, and the opportunities for our prospective students are tremendous."

"We have an amazing group of students," added assistant ROTC instructor Jesse Austin, a staff sergeant in the Guard. "They are a tight-knit bunch. They are as serious as any athletic team."

ROTC is the U.S. Army officer program available through the military science program at SOU, which runs parallel to a student's academic major. Students training to become Army officers also take courses in other subjects, such as political science, history and philosophy.

These courses help to broaden their understanding and prepare them to be better officers, Ensley explained.

To receive a full scholarship, students must have a 2.5 high school or college GPA, a minimum 920 combined SAT score in reading and math and the ability to finish college by age 30. Applicants must also meet physical requirements and have no serious legal violations. Students older than 30 are eligible for a partial scholarship if they are able to graduate by age 38.

Rogue Community College students can complete their freshmen and sophomore ROTC requirements, then transfer to SOU for their junior year and apply for an ROTC scholarship, Ensley noted.

"We have a great opportunity for transfer students coming to SOU from two-year colleges," he said. "If we build their scholarship applications in the winter and spring, they will have scholarships waiting here next fall term."

Upon graduating from SOU, ROTC cadets receive an officer's commission into the National Guard, then have their choice of military reserve, active reserve or active duty. They are obligated to serving for four years in the military.