A bipartisan group of legislators in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have introduced a new bill to provide new resources for Reserve Officers’ Training Corps students at historically Black colleges and universities.
As a whole, African Americans make up 20 percent of all Air Force personnel. But only 1.7 percent of Air Force pilots are African Americans. Aspiring military aviators can significantly improve their career prospects with undergraduate pilot training, but ROTC scholarships do not cover flight training costs. This makes it more difficult for low-income students to become pilots.
The Fostering Leadership and Inclusion by Growing HBCU Training (FLIGHT) Act has two main goals:
— Lowering the barriers to ROTC participation for students at HBCUs and minority institutions. Many ROTC students at HBCUs must commute to host institutions for classes — often over long distances. This bill would provide funding and resources to mitigate these barriers, in part by encouraging partnerships between the institutions and nearby military bases.
— Supplementing flight training costs for ROTC members enrolled at HBCUs. While the funds appropriated by the FLIGHT Act can be used at commercial flight schools, priority is given to students who would also receive their flight training at HBCUs.
“Now more than ever, we are reminded how vital it is that our leaders, our guardians, and our role models reflect the diversity of America itself,” said Senator Chris Coons of Delaware one of the bill’s co-sponsors. “Our service members come from all walks of life, but people of color remain underrepresented at the military’s highest levels. This undermines both our military readiness and our society as a whole. Today’s military aviators will become tomorrow’s best-trained commercial pilots. Our current officers in uniform will become our policy experts, our CEOs, and often our political leaders. The FLIGHT Act is just one of many steps we must take to ensure that those who lead our country also fully represent it.”