A Battle Plan for Increasing the Number of Black Students at the U.S. Military Academies

The current first-year class at the U.S. Naval Academy started out with 1,215 members. Of these, 77, or 6.3 percent, are black. At the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, 79, or just under 6 percent, of the 1,327 first-year cadets are black. At the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, 60 of the 1,302 entering students are black. They make up 4.6 percent of the first-year class.

Congressman Elijah Cummings of Baltimore, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee and is on the board of visitors of the Naval Academy, believes that the service academies rely too heavily on SAT scores as a barometer of whom to admit.

The mean score of entering students at the service academies on the reading and mathematics portion of the SAT is about 1280. But only 12 percent of all African-American students who take the SAT score 1000 or higher. And there is stiff competition from scores of colleges and universities for black students who score 1200 or higher on the SAT.

Representative Cummings believes that the academies must begin to recruit high-performing black students in the eighth and ninth grade and to steer these students into the high school curriculum that will prepare them to meet the academies’ entrance requirements.