The United States Air Force Academy (USAFA or Air Force) is an accredited college for the undergraduate education of officer candidates for the United States Air Force. Its campus is located immediately north of Colorado Springs in El Paso County, Colorado, United States. The Academy’s stated mission is “to educate, train, and inspire men and women to become officers of character, motivated to lead the United States Air Force in service to our nation.” It is the youngest of the five United States service academies, having graduated its first class in 1959. Graduates of the Academy’s four-year program receive a Bachelor of Science degree, and most are commissioned as second lieutenants in the United States Air Force.
The Academy is also one of the largest tourist attractions in Colorado, attracting more than a million visitors each year.The Air Force Academy is among the most selective colleges in the United States. Many publications such as U.S. News and World Report do not rank the Academy directly against other colleges because of service academies’ special mission. However, a few do; Forbes Magazine recently ranked the Academy the #2 public college in the United States and the #7 college overall in its “America’s Best Colleges 2009” publication. Candidates for admission are judged on their academic achievement, demonstrated leadership, athletics and character. To gain admission, candidates must also pass a fitness test, undergo a thorough medical examination, and secure a nomination, which usually comes from the member of Congress in the candidate’s home district. Recent incoming classes have had about 1,400 cadets; historically just under 1,000 of those will graduate. Tuition along with room and board are all paid for by the U.S. Government. Cadets receive a monthly stipend, but incur a commitment to serve a number of years of military service after graduation.