A Free, Federal College Education - But Mostly For Men

West Point, the Naval Academy in Annapolis, and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs are all top-tier educational institutions owned and operated at taxpayer expense by the United States government. They provide an elite education and leadership training to some of the best and brightest students free of charge. Considered the crown jewels of military leadership training, the academies produce officers who often go on to become the nation's military brass.

They also just happen to disproportionately benefit men, and we're trying to find out why, despite the Pentagon and the three academies' opposition.

While women were first allowed into the academies almost 40 years ago, their numbers at West Point have remained between 14 and 20 percent of the class for more than a quarter of a century. Numbers are a little higher at the Naval Academy, where women have finally hit a quarter of the entering class this past year, and at the Air Force Academy, where women remain under a quarter of the class. By admitting so few women, the academies reinforce and reproduce the military's "brass ceiling" resulting in a small number of women serving as top military officers.

The low numbers of women at these schools are also mysterious. Women have been allowed to go on to serve in combat roles in the Navy and the Air Force for decades – in fact, in the Air Force, more than 99 percent of positions have been open to women for years. West Point maintains so-called "class composition goals" of between 14 and 20 percent women. It's unclear why West Point wants so few women in its classes, particularly now that women have spent more than a decade serving in ground combat. The situation grows murkier still, considering the Pentagon has lifted its ground combat exclusion policy, opening the way for women to serve in an increasing number of specialties and units, including the combat arms.

To learn more about the skewed gender makeups of these federal academies, the ACLU has teamed up with the Service Women's Action Network, the ACLU of Connecticut, and the Yale Law School Veterans Legal Services Clinic. We submitted requests under the Freedom of Information Act to the academies, and this week, after the Defense Department declined to provide answers to our requests, we filed a FOIA lawsuit asking a federal court to require the government to turn over the requested records. In addition to basic admissions data, we asked for records that will shed light on the process of getting into these academies, including the process of securing congressional nominations, the screening of applicants, and the climate for students once they arrive at the schools.

The Constitution prohibits the government from excluding women from opportunities without what the Supreme Court, in the case against the Virginia Military Institute, called an "exceedingly persuasive justification."

To date, the government hasn't offered any justification for offering its competitive, free college education to three times more men than women. Through this lawsuit, we hope to learn more about the barriers facing women in getting into these schools, and the justifications, if any, for admitting so few of them.

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I'm shocked that even 14% of the class is women. I think sociologically women are more predisposed to not wage war. I'd be willing to bet that the admissions data, if you can get it, will show that there are many more male applicants than female applicants, and I believe that would be enough of a reason to have those unequal quotas. Without seeing that data though, we don't know.

CNN's Pentagon figures show that women make up about 15% of the entire military. This might be even more of a reason to have those quotas for West Point.



The military-industrial complex is inherently dangerous for female existence. Its very existence props up rape culture. Of course there are fewer women in military academies. There should be fewer (read: zero) students of any sex there.

Military academies are the type of places where this happens:

Getting into the military means getting into rape culture:

If rape happens to you there, of all places, then the military is very clear on what you are supposed to do:

The military, in its current form, is a violent place for female (and all human) existence. Period.


Inherently dangerous for FEMALES? Who the F dies on a battle field? Remind me.


Perhaps it's just as simple as not that many women wanting to go to these institutions. One could see the composition goals as minimums that are wanted, not as defining limits. Or to put it another way, "Ideally the goal is to have a minimum of 20 percent women, but will allow it to drop not below 14 percent in the case that it can't be met."


At the end, you say "three times more men than women". Do you mean, "three times as many men as women"? They are different, you know. Which is it?


Check facts against this article. Please take into account the percentages of those that apply. Percentages of females that apply vs those accepted and male applications vs acceptance would give a more realistic view of whether or not there is any issue. Let's not push comments of this style off base to other topics that are unrelated...


Honestly, this isn't a well researched article. Anyone that has attended or has been a part of the administration of a service academy would note that the these academies don't discriminate against women. The simple answer is that not many women apply. I'm sure if you asked any male midshipmen or cadet they would beg you to bring more women to the service academies. No one likes an 8-2 ratio of male to female.


Military officers are meant to represent the troops that they will lead. As it stands today, women are actually overrepresented at the academies. While women represent only 15.7%, 17%, and 18.9% of the active Army, Navy, and Air Force personnel respectively, women comprise 22%, 25.4%, and 22% of the corresponding academies' incoming classes.


All posts above are correct. It is a numbers of applicants issue. The academies will take in less qualified women so they can have women at the academy but at some point, there are women applicants that just won't make the application standards or for that matter be successful at the academies. The numbers to look at are number of women who apply vs percentage of those women who applied that accepted. It should be about the same as the percentage of male applicants who are accepted. If only 20% of applicants are female than only about 20% of those accepted should be female. This article is trying to make the problem seem bigger than it is.


Men and women have different tendencies. Even in a 100% gender-equal society(which I'm not saying we have), more men will be drawn to the military than women. Show alien biologists just the anatomy and physiology of typical men and women and they would make the same prediction.


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