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ARMY PREP SCHOOL FILLS A NEED

SHARE ARMY PREP SCHOOL FILLS A NEED

Congressional plans for scaling back or eliminating the prep school that supplies most of the Army's minority officers are wrongheaded. The U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School at Fort Monmouth, N.J., is doing a yeoman job integrating the officer corps, making the Army more representative of America - and a model of how an integrated enterprise ought to work. Tampering could undo two decades of progress and destroy a vital source of opportunity for minority youth.

The 10-month Army prep school is grueling, and nearly a third of those who enter drop out. Those who complete the program show dramatic improvement. SAT scores rise by an average of 100 points for whites and 120 points for blacks. About 40 percent of blacks who attend West Point enter through the prep program. Without it, minority enrollment at West Point would be lower still than its current, dismal 6 percent.Plans for scaling back the prep schools and farming out the students to private military academies would likely result in the best students being admitted and the riskiest students left out. Congress is right to cut costs, economize, and eliminate abuses, such as the alleged focus at the Air Force Academy's prep school on preparing athletes for admission. But keep the prep schools. They pay for themselves many times over.