The Navy department, realizing that a reserve of qualified officers would be needed for expansion incidental to an unforeseen emergency, established the Naval Reserve Officers' Training Corps in 1926. The original units were at the University of California, Northwestern University, University of Washington, Harvard University, Yale University, and Georgia Institute of Technology.
The Marine Corps entered the NROTC Program in 1932, offering qualified NROTC graduates commissions in the United States Marine Corps. In 1968, Prairie View A&M became the first Historically Black College (HBC) to host the program. In 1972, the Secretary of the Navy authorized 16 women to enroll in the program and attend school at one of four colleges. Women may now participate in the program while attending any NROTC affiliated college or university. In 1990, the NROTC Scholarship Program was expanded to include applicants pursuing a four-year degree in Nursing, leading to a commission in the Navy Nurse Corps.
The mission of the NROTC Program today is to develop young men and women morally, mentally, and physically, and to instill in them the highest ideals of honor, courage, and commitment. The program educates and trains young men and women for leadership positions in an increasingly technical Navy and Marine Corps. Currently there are 63 NROTC units/consortiums hosted at 77 schools throughout the United States. The NROTC Program is available at over 160 colleges and universities that either host NROTC units or have cross-town enrollment agreements with a host university. Selected applicants for the program are awarded scholarships through a highly competitive national selection process, and receive full tuition and other financial benefits at many of the country's leading colleges and universities.
The NROTC Unit, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, was commissioned in September 1941 (three months prior to Pearl Harbor) as the first NROTC Unit in the State of New York, and as one of the twenty-eight units located at various colleges and universities throughout the country at that time. During World War II, the Unit was expanded to include the V-12 training programs, but in 1945 it returned to a normal peacetime program. During this same year, the NROTC program was expanded to include twenty-three additional institutions.