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During the course of GAO's review of the student attrition rates at the five Federal service academies (West Point Military Academy, the Naval Academy, the Air Force Academy, the Merchant Marine Academy, and the Coast Guard Academy), the need to ascertain whether the academies are losing students whom they would like to keep and who are potentially good career officers was emphasized. If they were losing many such students, the need to reduce attrition would be more pronounced. If, on the other hand, most dropouts represent a far inferior group, attrition would be correcting for limitations in selection techniques and insuring that only quality students were graduated. To compare the types of students who dropped out with those who remained, GAO obtained data on the characteristics of entering students of the class of 1974 (students who entered in 1970) from the American Council on Education. In addition, the academies furnished high school performance and academic achievement data for this class. This student characteristics database consisted of about 300 individual items or variables. The types of students who came to the academies and dropped out are described and compared with the those who stayed, highlighting significant differences between the groups.

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