The Coast Guard has offered multiple commissioning programs for college students. Pre-Commissioning Program for Enlisted Personnel (PPEP) is one, another is called the College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative Scholarship Program (CSPI).
It’s important to point out that such programs are not always offered 100% of the time by the uniformed services. They may be added or withdrawn based on funding issues, policy changes, federal law or other issues. At the time of this writing, CSPI is an active program. PPEP does not seem to be active at press time, though features of the two are very similar in many respects.
When considering options for a military career, those who want to enter college often think about joining a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, which provides a gateway to a career as a military officer, possible payment of college expenses, and a path toward a college degree at the same time. The Army and Air Force ROTC programs are very well known on many campuses.
But some don’t choose the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps. Some want to explore their options working for the United States Coast Guard, which is a branch of the United States military but falling under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security and not the Department of Defense.
Does the U.S. Coast Guard offer an ROTC program to help college students find a way to a career as a Coast Guard officer? No, sadly, it does not.
What it DOES offer is sometimes described as being a bit better than an ROTC program. What does it take to get involved in what the Coast Guard calls the College Student Pre-Commissioning Scholarship Initiative (CSPI)?
Getting Accepted Into A Commissioning Program
What does it take to be accepted? These are programs aimed at those who are either currently serving as enlisted personnel (PPEP), or those who are accepted or currently enrolled in a full-time undergraduate program, “…with the desire to complete college and receive a guaranteed commission as an officer in the United States Coast Guard” (CSPI).
Students currently studying at the community college level or otherwise pursuing an Associates degree may be considered eligible to apply for Coast Guard commissioning programs if they have been accepted into a qualifying college for a Bachelor’s degree program.
The rules for applying will vary depending on the program but in general, applicants can expect funding for both Junior and Senior year in college unless they have completed some or all of their junior year before applying.
Coast Guard Commissioning Program Basics
CG commissioning programs offer active duty pay at the rate of E-3 for those who join as enlisted members in order to participate in the program. In addition to the scholarship money (books, tuition, fees) for college attendance in the Junior and Senior year.
The trade-off for this is that regular CG duties are required each month, the student must wear the CG uniform on campus once per week, and school breaks may be filled with training and military professional education coursework.
A three-year service commitment is required. You can learn how to apply by asking a Coast Guard Recruiter or visiting the Coast Guard official site.
CSPI and PPEP have very similar features. CSPI requirements include:
- Be between 19 and 27 years old
- Sophomores or Juniors are eligible to apply
- Enrollment requirements include attending a four-year degree program–not all programs qualify and the school must meet certain diversity requirements
- Must be able to complete a bachelor’s degree within 24 months
- Minimum GPA of 2.5
- Must be able to obtain a Secret security clearance
- Must meet financial responsibility requirements including not carrying more than a 30% ratio (debt to income) for an E-3 paygrade. Any Coast Guard enlisted member E4 or above selected for CSPI will be reduced to the pay grade of E-3 when the program begins.
There is a maximum Active Duty service rule for some applicants–you must have no more than six years of “non-Coast Guard active-duty military service” as of your commissioning date.
Furthermore, active duty or Reserve members with more than four years of active-duty service as of the selection panel date are ineligible.
After completing their junior year of college, CSPI students attend a three week leadership training course in New London, Connecticut during the summer. After college graduation, CSPI students are enrolled in a 17-week officer candidate school in New London, and earn a commission as a Coast Guard officer.
PPEP Requirements include that the candidate be an enlisted Coast Guard member E4 or above. Other PPEP eligibility requirements include, but are not limited to:
- Applicant has reached their 21st but not their 30th birthday as of the selection panel convening date.
- Must meet Coast Guard character standards. “Members having an alcohol related incident following their selection into the program will be disenrolled”.
- Applicants must have completed “sufficient undergraduate course work to complete the requirements for a bachelor’s degree in 24 months”.
- Applicants must be enrolled or accepted for enrollment in an accredited 4-year college or university offering a bachelor’s degree program in the member’s desired course of study.
- Applicants should not expect to be transferred solely to attend a specific college.
- Close proximity of the college or university to the member’s present Coast Guard unit is preferred and will be considered in the selection process.
- Applicants must have at least a 2.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale. Selected students must maintain a GPA of at least 2.5 per semester and cumulative to remain in PPEP.
- Must be an E4 or above.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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