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Coast Guard Officer Trainees. Jesse Sceppe is second from right. (Photo credit: U.S. Coast Guard)

In today’s modern world, it’s not enough to just have a college degree; every year, the number of formally educated workers is growing.

Students all over the country are looking for ways to beef up their resumes and set themselves apart from their peers. The college student pre-commissioning program (CSPI) combines military work experience with education opportunities provided through the United States Coast Guard for students attending college.

The CSPI scholarship is designed for college juniors and seniors who demonstrate superior academic and leadership capabilities. Students who are accepted into the program are enlisted into the U.S. Coast Guard and complete basic training during the summer.

Heather Slaninka in her coast guard uniform throwing shaka
Heather Slaninka

Participants will receive:

  • Full funding, including payment of tuition, fees, books
  • Full-time Coast Guard salary as an E-3 (pay grade ranges from E-1 to E-9)
  • Housing allowance
  • Medical benefits

“I discovered the CSPI program by researching the different military opportunities that pay for college,” said Heather Slaninka, a former marine science technician in the Coast Guard and a senior at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa enrolled in the CSPI program. “I was drawn to the Coast Guard over any other branch because it is the only branch that deals with environmental response, a field I have always wanted to work in since I was a little girl.”

More on CSPI

To take part in the program, students must be enrolled in a full-time bachelor’s degree program at a minority serving accredited college or university; a historically Black college or university; a Hispanic serving institute; a tribal college; or university. UH Mānoa, UH Hilo and UH West Oʻahu offer CSPI opportunities.

While in school, officer trainees report to their local recruiting office where they complete a minimum of 16 hours per month of Coast Guard duty. After finishing their junior year, CSPI students attend a three-week leadership training course in New London, Connecticut, followed by a full-time summer as active duty training at a new unit.

“The CSPI Program is beneficial to students’ academic and professional careers,” said Chief Petty Officer Alvan Welch, Recruiting Office Honolulu Recruiter in Charge. “In particular, it allows students to excel academically by not worrying about college’s financial burden and guarantees a job upon graduation.”

After graduating from college, officer trainees attend officer candidate school, a 17-week long course. Upon completion, graduates commission as a Coast Guard ensign, and receive an initial assignment in one of the officer operational specialties: aviation, afloat, prevention or response.

“I’m most looking forward to earning my commission and returning to the fleet as an ensign,” said Jesse Sceppe, a former operations specialist in the Coast Guard and officer trainee currently enrolled in the CSPI program at UH. “Hopefully I’ll be conducting intelligence or prevention missions throughout the Coast Guard.”

Application deadline: December 28

Both active duty Coast Guard members and civilians are able to apply for the program if they meet the requirements.

The next CSPI application deadline is December 28, 2020, and applicants are encouraged to meet with their recruiter two months prior to the application due date.

To learn more about the CSPI program and other Coast Guard opportunities, contact your local Coast Guard recruiting office or visit

—By LCDR Karin Evelyn

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