As a result of the government shutdown, students under contract with UC Berkeley Army ROTC did not receive the cost-of-living stipends due to them Tuesday from the federal government.
According to Executive Officer Lt. Col. Jeffrey Erts, members of the ROTC — called cadets — were supposed to receive the first of their bimonthly stipends, which range from $300 to $500, on Oct. 15. As the U.S. Army scales back on educational assistance because of the federal government shutdown, however, cadets can expect a delay of their stipends until Congress can agree on a budget.
“We expect that they will be paid eventually, but not until there’s a budget,” Erts said. “And right now, there’s no budget.”
The delay of the stipends is disruptive for many cadets, according to UC Berkeley sophomore Tony Chang, a cadet in the ROTC. Chang is studying to work in the Medical Corps and uses the stipend to pay for books and food.
“I know emergencies can happen, and I just want to be prepared, so I had saved up money before the shutdown,” he said. “But other cadets are asking for a little help.”
In addition to the stipend, some students also receive the Army ROTC scholarship, which covers either a cadet’s tuition or housing costs as well as other school-related costs. Erts estimated that of the 50 students enrolled in the program, about 18 receive the scholarship.
Whether the scholarship money will be distributed this semester will be determined in the next two weeks, he said.
“We still have some time,” Erts said. “But if the scholarship is delayed, we will have a discussion with the school to make sure cadets remain enrolled in classes.”
The funding shortage affects other aspects of the ROTC as well. Erts said that while recruitment has been largely unaffected, the program can no longer hold recruitment events off campus, which could hinder the strength of the program in the future.
Meanwhile, the Fall Field Training Exercise, one of the ROTC’s most important events for the fall semester, has been postponed, according to senior military instructor Master Sgt. Jose Magana.
Calling the exercise “critical,” Magana said it offers the only chance for cadets to learn skills such as land navigation and ways to acclimate to the field environment.
Two of the program’s employees were furloughed during the first week of the shutdown, but they were allowed to return to work, according to Erts.
Nevertheless, both cadets and officials remain optimistic. Erts said cadets are taking the funding challenges in stride.
“In some ways, they are too busy to get involved in politics,” he said.
For Tony Chang, the Army is more than an avenue to pay for college anyway.
“I always wanted to be in the Army,” he said. “I fall in love with it more and more all the time.”
Contact Savannah Luschei at [email protected].