The Navy is reviving its Baccalaureate Degree Completion Program as it aims to expand the Navy’s “talent pool” of future officers.

The program, which was phased out in 2003 due to budgetary reasons, provides financial assistance to college students who agree to complete Officer Candidate School after graduation from college.

The program’s restoration stems from recommendations included in the Task Force One Navy report released in February 2021. The task force was created in June 2020 to address systemic racism within the service, evaluate racial disparities in the military justice system, and examine the fairness of the promotion and advancement process to eliminate “destructive biases.”

“Bringing BDCP back widens the talent pool in our officer ranks by offering opportunities to students at universities without an existing NROTC program,” Cmdr. Dave Benham, a spokesman for Navy Recruiting Command, said in an email to Navy Times.

“The avenue to get officers out of these schools had been almost exclusively OCS, which requires a degree as a prerequisite,” Benham said. “BDCP allows the Navy to provide this opportunity to current students who qualify, reaching a portion of the undergraduate market that we weren’t able to access.”

Those tapped for the program receive pay and allowances starting at the rate of an officer candidate petty officer third class, although they are still responsible for tuition.

This allows students to singularly focus on completing their degree rather than juggle a job on the side, and also helps the Navy to identify top talent sooner while remaining competitive with other service branches and the private sector, Benham said.

“This program is meant for that person midway through college that is figuring out what’s next in their life,” Lt. Cmdr. James Barfoot, the branch head of general accessions at Navy Recruiting Command, said in a Navy news release. “Instead of having to delay and potentially run into a financial situation, they’ve got a pathway.”

The Navy announced March 14 it was seeking applications for the program for the following designators: aviation (pilot and naval flight officer), special warfare (SEAL), special operations and surface warfare officer. The total service obligation is eight years, with at least four of those years serving active duty, depending on requirements specific to each designator.

The Baccalaureate Degree Completion Program board is poised to select 50 applicants to attend OCS for fiscal 2023. Those with majors in science, technology, engineering and mathematics will receive strong consideration, according to a naval administrative message.

Civilians, enlisted personnel in the Navy Reserve, and Inactive Reserve personnel from other services who are U.S. citizens and have at least a 2.8 grade point average are eligible to apply.

Applicants must also be at least 19 and enrolled, or accepted for transfer, to a regionally accredited four year university, according to the Navy.

With the exception of medical or physical disqualifications, those who attrite or disenroll prior to commissioning will serve for 24 months as an enlisted sailor. The Navy will discharge those not physically qualified for a commissioning or enlistment.

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