FORT McCOY, Wis. –
With the average cost for the Class of 2017 at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire at $26,664, an aspiring junior has found a way to pay for college and graduate virtually debt free.
Reserve Officer Training Corps Cadet Daniel Prissel, from Owatonna, Minn., is using a $40,000 Minuteman Scholarship offered by the Army Reserve to pay for room and board. As part of the scholarship package, he also receives a monthly $420 stipend, a monthly $350 SMP stipend and an annual $1,200 book stipend. Scholarship recipients can choose 100 percent tuition and fees or the $10,000 a year room and board option.
SMP stands for Simultaneous Membership Program, where Prissel is part of a local Army Reserve unit. He also earns $5,000 a year for training one weekend a month and two weeks a year with the unit.
Prissel is working on a biology degree and plans to be a game warden upon graduation. “I always had a background in the wilderness, being outside hunting and fishing, so that’s something that really interested me. I’m looking at doing my master’s in ecology,” he said.
The Minuteman Scholarship has helped Prissel focus on his studies without worrying about rent and food. “I have never had to have a part-time or full-time job in school. I’ve never been tight on money to live or tight on money to go out and do things,” Prissel said. “I wouldn’t have been able to afford to have an apartment and pay the rent” and buy food. “The cost of everything is so much.”
To achieve his academic goals, Prissel lauds the scholarship. “I would not have been able to afford to come to a traditional four-year university without the Minuteman Scholarship,” Prissel said. “At our school, we say that ROTC kids are college kids with more money.”
Perhaps surprisingly, despite the size of the benefit, roughly one-third of the available Minuteman Scholarships go unawarded. The requirements for consideration for the scholarship include passing a medical physical, ability to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test, 1000 points on the ACT or 19 points on the SAT and a 2.5 GPA.
Also perhaps surprisingly, the application process for scholarship consideration is fairly straight forward. A potential scholarship awardee has to be nominated by an Army two-star general, an Army Reserve Ambassador or a Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army. The applicant must interview with a Professor of Military Science and have an acceptance letter to a college or university with a ROTC program.
Prissel joined the ROTC program because he enjoys being in the military and likes the team work. He was already an enlisted Soldier in a local Army Reserve unit serving as a Fire Control System Repairer. He received a $15,000 enlistment bonus for choosing that career field. “I like the ability to learn and apply multiple things to my life. The Army teaches you a lot of management and leadership skills that directly translate” into civilian careers. He is also working on a minor in military science and leadership besides the hands-on experience he’s gaining in the ROTC program and SMP.
Prissel is a member of the 322nd Support Maintenance Company in Arden Hills, Minn. “I’ve been a platoon leader since my freshman year,” he said. “I’ve run every shop there and that’s allowed me to really grow and have that platoon leader time before I’m the actual guy” assigned to that leadership position.
“I’ll have four years of platoon leadership in before I even commission” as a second lieutenant. “That’s really beneficial,” he said. The shops he’s referring to are human resources, intelligence, operations, plans, training and logistics. He incurs an eight-year service obligation in the Army Reserve upon graduation and commissioning as part of the scholarship requirements.
Prissel’s parents are happy with his success. Joining the ROTC program “really gave me a purpose and drove me to pursue what I’ve always talked about doing in law enforcement and conservation. I decided to chase after this. It’s really benefitted me,” he said.
Both of Prissel’s grandparents served in the Korean War and Vietnam. His grandmother was in the Air Force and his grandfather was in the Navy. “My Grandma was another driving force for me doing this, giving me purpose.”
Prissel has this advice for high school students and college students looking for a way to pay for college: I would look into the Minuteman Scholarship. There is a commitment, but the Army is also giving you benefits. They’re giving you top-notch leadership training; a lot of places look for that. There’s a place for everybody in the Army, whether it’s doing logistics, working in combat arms or military law enforcement,” he said.
The average college student debt statistic was provided in an August 2018 report by LendEDU.