Military recruiting has become more difficult in recent years. For the first time in two decades the services failed to meet their recruiting targets for fiscal year (FY) 1999. While the unusually strong labor market of the 1990s undoubtedly played some role in recent recruiting difficulties, another long-term demographic trend is likely to also contribute to recruiting woes: the large growth in college attendance in recent years. Traditionally, the services have targeted the recruitment of those youth who have no immediate plans to attend college. However, because high-quality youth are increasingly likely to choose to attend college right after high school, the services may benefit from considering whether they could target this group. The services might be able to significantly expand their pool of potential recruits by adopting policies that target youth who plan to go to college or who actually do go to college immediately following high school. We call this group youth in the college market.
RAND conducted a study to provide information to help the services assess their current programs to target the recruitment of youth in the college market and to develop new policies to reach this group. The first year of our study documented demographic trends that point toward college-bound youth as a potential recruiting market and documented the ways the services compete with the college market by offering opportunities to combine military service and college. The results of the first part of the study are summarized in Attracting College-Bound Youth into the Military: Toward the Development of New Recruiting Policy Options (Asch, Kilburn, and Klerman, 1999).