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COLUMBIA - The University of Missouri announced a new Mizzou ROTC scholarship for incoming first year students. The scholarship would be specifically for students who are national scholarship winners from the Army, Air Force, Navy or Marines prior to attending MU.

MU Chancellor Alexander Cartwright voiced his approval for the new scholarship at a press conference on Thursday, calling ROTC students at MU "exceptional".

He said. "The Mizzou ROTC Scholarship will provide full room and board to incoming freshmen in the ROTC program who have been selected for military scholarships and who agree to live on campus for their freshmen year."

Cartwright also thanked MU veterans, including those within ROTC.

"Although we can never repay the courageous citizens who pledge their lives to upholding America's values, we can express out gratitude and recognize those who continue to serve with a deep commitment to excellence," he said.

Robert Ross, director of the MU Veteran's Center, said the scholarship sends a positive message to anyone who's considering MU for college.

"We have a legacy to serving the military on this campus. It goes back hundreds of years and I think it kind of solidifies Mizzou's commitment," Ross said.

The announcement comes less than a week after MU announced it would lower costs for student housing and dining for the next school year. With the ROTC scholarships set to become available during the next school year, ROTC students who receive the scholarship will have a substantially lower cost of attendance than most students. 

"It will complete the cost of education for incoming freshmen ROTC students," said Andrew Sommer, MU Residential Life financial officer. "Previously, the Department of Defense paid for their tuition and fees with a book stipend, and for this point forward, they will be able to get room and board along with that to complete the cost of college education."

Sommer said he hopes the scholarship will bring more students to MU and to residential life. 

"I think anytime you lower costs or you get a great product like MU for free, which is what we're doing, it's going to attract some attention," Sommer said. "So I really hope we attract, not only those great ROTC cadets from St. Louis, Kansas City, and the rest of the state, but from the country as a whole."

Lt. Col. Garry Kerr said the scholarship came about after he asked several of his peers about the high number of national ROTC scholarship recipients at their schools. Kerr said they attributed it to offering free room and board. 

"So I talked to Dr. Cartwright when he got here and said "hey, sir, this might be something that the university considers to just grow the populous of our program and to be more competitive,'' Kerr said.

The estimated cost per student would be around $10,000. Based on current enrollment numbers, it is expected that more than 45 MU students from Missouri will qualify for the scholarship annually.