The U.S. Coast Guard has a scholarship program where those who enlist receive up to two years’ paid tuition, books and fees, and it pays approximately $3,600 monthly salary ($43,200 annually) as a Coast Guard active-duty member while serving as a full-time student.
In addition, enrollees can earn a starting salary of approximately $60,000 annually after graduation and successful completion of Officer Candidate School, according to Coast Guard Commander Zeita Merchant, a Jacksonian visiting from Washington, D.C., last week.
Too good to be true? Ask Merchant, a Lanier High School alum.
She was a recipient of the College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative (CSPI) Scholarship Program.
In 1998, she graduated with a bachelor of science in biology and entered Coast Guard service under CSPI, she said. She now has a top job, attached to the office of the commandant in Washington, D.C.
As a scholarship recipient, “a whole new world that I didn’t know existed opened up to me,” she said.
“I applied when I was a junior at Tougaloo College and spent my senior year, tuition-free, debt-free and worry-free!” she said. “Immediately after graduation, I had an incredibly gratifying career doing work that I love! With over 17 years of service in the Coast Guard, I still love what I do and I have accomplished more than I could have ever imagined.”
Another bonus to the CSPI program is the ability to also go to flight school and become a pilot. Students who are already enrolled in the CSPI program are eligible to apply for a guaranteed flight training assignment. Those who are selected pursue rigorous training to become a Coast Guard pilot following graduation from college and officer candidate school, Merchant said.
CSPI is primarily interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students, she said, but there are no requirements regarding majors.
Students must have a 2.5 GPA to qualify, as well as other restrictions (such as age 19-28). Students who are accepted will be enlisted into the Coast Guard, must complete basic training, and participate in monthly exercises.
Merchant was on the JSU campus with Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, at a meeting at the College of Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET).