What is a US Senior Military College?


In the United States, a senior military college (SMC) is one of six colleges that offer military Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) programmes under 10 U.S.C. § 2111a(f), though many other schools offer military ROTC under other sections of the law.

The six senior military colleges are:

  1. The Citadel, in Charleston, South Carolina
  2. Norwich University, in Northfield, Vermont
  3. Texas A&M University, in College Station, Texas
  4. Virginia Military Institute, in Lexington, Virginia
  5. Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, Virginia
  6. University of North Georgia, in Dahlonega, Georgia

Refer to Military Junior College and Federal Service Academies.



Under Army regulation an SMC must meet certain criteria:

  • Bachelor’s degree must be granted.
  • All physically fit undergraduate students must take courses in military training. Exceptions to this requirement include foreign nationals, prior-service personnel, females not participating in ROTC, and other students approved professor of military science.
  • The school must establish a corps of cadets in which all cadets wear military uniforms when on campus. The corps of cadets involves a military environment in which the students live constantly, not just during the school day, and in which the students are subject to military discipline.
  • The SMC must have as an objective the development of character through military training and the regulation of cadet conduct according to principles of military discipline (a cadet code of conduct).
  • The SMC must maintain military standards similar to those of the federal service academies.

Federal law currently prohibits the Department of Defence (DoD) from requiring a policy in SMCs that mandates female students’ participation in the ROTC programmes.

Cadets at an SMC are authorised to take the ROTC programme all four years, but taking a commission upon graduation remains optional, unlike other colleges where ROTC cadets are required to sign a contract to take commission before entering their final two years.

Under both AR 145-1 and federal law, the ROTC programmes at the SMCs are treated differently. Unlike ROTC at other schools, the DoD is prohibited from closing or reducing the ROTC programmes at an SMC, even during time of war (full or total mobilisation).

The Secretary of Defence and the Secretaries of the military departments may not take or authorise any action to terminate or reduce a unit of the Senior ROTC at a SMC unless the termination or reduction is specifically requested by the college and Army “[SMC] ROTC programs will continue at an accelerated rate as directed.”

In contrast with other colleges and universities:

“Under full or total mobilization, the Secretary of the Army may withdraw the ROTC detachments without giving prior notice to the academic institution. The establishment of new SROTC detachments will not be authorized after full mobilization has been declared.”

All MS-IV cadets at the senior military colleges will be commissioned and directed to attend the proper officers basic course (OBC). At other colleges, ROTC programmes will be suspended and the cadet will immediately be available for reassignment.

Another distinction of the SMC system is that all cadets at the senior military colleges are guaranteed active duty commissions when they graduate:

The Secretary of the Army shall ensure that a graduate of a senior military college who desires to serve as a commissioned officer on active duty upon graduation from the college, who is medically and physically qualified for active duty, and who is recommended for such duty by the professor of military science at the college, shall be assigned to active duty.


The Citadel

The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, is a state-supported, comprehensive college located in Charleston, South Carolina, which was established in 1842. The Citadel enrols approximately 2,250 cadets in the South Carolina Corps of Cadets and approximately 1,300 civilian graduate and undergraduate students in The Citadel Graduate College. In 2017, for the seventh consecutive year, US News & World Report ranked The Citadel as the No. 1 regional public college in the South (among those that offer master’s degrees). Members of the Cadet Corps are required to be enrolled in ROTC and approximately one third are commissioned into the six military services. Active duty Marine and Navy personnel also attend cadet classes as part of the MECEP (Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Programme) and STA-21 programmes which commission highly qualified NCOs; the MECEP programme originated at The Citadel in 1973.

Norwich University

The Military College of Vermont, The oldest senior military college and the “Birthplace of ROTC”, Norwich University is a private university located in Northfield, Vermont. Founded in 1819 at Norwich, Vermont, as the American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy, it is the oldest of the non-federal Military Academies and currently only private military college in the US. Norwich has often been cited as the inspiration for The Citadel and Virginia Military Institute. It is home to both a corps of cadets and a traditional civilian student population.

Texas A&M University

Texas A&M University was established under the Morrill Act of 1862, and cadets began classes in 1876. During World War II, Texas A&M produced 20,229 Aggies who served in combat. Of those, 14,123 Aggies served as officers: more than the combined total of the United States Naval Academy and the United States Military Academy and more than three times the totals of any other SMC.

Texas A&M has grown rapidly since the 20th century and is now the largest university by enrolment in the US. With an enrolment of 64,961 students, of which approximately 2,560 are cadets, Texas A&M is the largest of the SMCs by total student enrolment. In 2018, more than 220 cadets were commissioned as officers, making Texas A&M University the largest producer of commissioned officers among all the SMCs. According to US News & World Report Texas A&M is ranked highest academically compared to other SMCs, and many degrees common to cadets (specifically STEM degrees) are ranked as top 10 programmes out of all universities in the US. Texas A&M University is the only SMC to allow students to commission as merchant marines, and is done through their Maritime Academy located at their Galveston campus.

Virginia Military Institute

Founded in 1839 in Lexington, Virginia, the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) is the oldest state military college in the US. VMI has been called the “West Point of the South” because of its role during the Civil War and unlike any other senior military college in the United States, VMI enrols military cadets only and awards bachelor degrees exclusively. Next to West Point, VMI has graduated more Army generals than any other college or university in the US. The former Governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, is a graduate of VMI.

In addition to the accomplishments of its graduates in civilian endeavours, VMI is the only military college in the US to graduate the highest ranking four-star generals across three services: Two Marine Corps Commandants, Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr. and Randolph M. Pate, and Chiefs of Staff of the Army, George C. Marshall and the Air Force, John P. Jumper. VMI is also the only SMC in the US to graduate a five-star general: General of the Army George C. Marshall.

Virginia Tech

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), located in Blacksburg, Virginia, is one of only two major public universities to host a SMC as part of a larger civilian university. The Corps of Cadets has existed since Virginia Tech’s 1872 founding; membership was mandatory for all male students during their entire term at the school until 1924 when the requirement was reduced to two years. After World War II, prior-service students were not required to enter the Corps, and in 1964 Corps membership was made voluntary for all non-ROTC students. Women had attended as civilian students since 1921, and they were admitted into the Corps of Cadets in 1973, before the service academies. Members of the Corps may participate in one of two tracks: the Military-Leader Track in one of the three nationally distinguished ROTC programmes leading to an officer’s commission or the Citizen-Leader Track to serve in the public or private sectors after graduation.

University of North Georgia

The University of North Georgia (UNG), also known as The Military College of Georgia, is located in Dahlonega, Georgia. Since its creation in 1873 as North Georgia Agricultural College, the college required undergraduate resident males to participate in the Corps of Cadets (the corps was optional for resident undergraduate females and all commuting or graduate students). North Georgia was also the first SMC to admit women into the Corps of Cadets. The school has a large United States Army ROTC programme and is the only senior military college without Navy/Marine Corps and Air Force programmes. Students are no longer required to enrol in the military programme.

Refer to Blue Ridge Rifles.

US Coast Guard Direct Commission Selective Schools (DCSS)

Graduates of the six SMCs, as well as Mary Baldwin University (Staunton, Virginia) and Prairie View A&M University (Prairie View, Texas), are allowed to commission into the US Coast Guard under the Direct Commission Selective School (DCSS) programme.

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