The vision for TASSP emerged during Dr. Bob Gates’ Texas A&M University presidency and mirrored a plan conceived by Chancellor John Sharp ’72 when he was Texas comptroller.
“I wanted to find a way to significantly reduce the cost of attending Texas A&M for people interested in the Corps of Cadets or being a commissioned officer,” Gates said. “A scholarship program like this would be a big recruiting asset for the Corps while achieving a good thing for the country.”
Gates introduced the idea to Neal Adams ’68, then serving as the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s vice chair. After researching the idea, Adams became a key advocate. “It was Neal’s persistence that made TASSP a reality because the proposal first failed several times to get approval in the Texas Legislature,” Gates said.
Adams’ championing finally paid off, thanks in large part to two other Aggies. When the proposal seemed destined to stall again, then-Representative Dan Gattis ’90 asked House colleagues what they needed to vote the bill out of committee.
Someone replied, “Drop and do 20”—and the former Corps of Cadets member immediately complied in the Texas Capitol committee room. From there, then-Senator Steve Ogden ’87, who is also a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, successfully moved the bill through the Senate. The legislation passed, and TASSP funding began in 2011.
Recipients are nominated by the Texas governor, lieutenant governor, a state senator or a state representative. Since its inception, 3,275 TASSP scholarships worth $25 million have been awarded across the state; of those, Texas A&M students received 2,411 scholarships totaling $18.8 million.
Many Aggie recipients combine TASSP funds with Corps of Cadets scholarships to substantially reduce—and, in some cases, totally defray—college costs. However, if a recipient fails to meet TASSP’s requirements, the scholarship transitions into a loan that requires repayment.
Not surprisingly, most Aggie TASSP recipients honor their military commitment, which upholds its visionaries’ initial intent for the program.
“When you look at Texas and especially Texas A&M and the Corps of Cadets, young people have made a huge difference in serving our country,” Gattis said. “It makes total sense to have a program that rewards and encourages that kind of service.”