The number of applicants to the Air Force Academy (searchhas grown sharply from last fall, despite the school's sexual assault scandal.

As of Nov. 12, the number of applicants was 10,555 — 1,616 more than the 8,939 from a year ago at the same time, the academy said Tuesday.

The assault scandal has put the school on front pages across the nation. Top commanders have been replaced and the school has begun sweeping changes intended to crack down on drinking (search) and other problems.

"People look at this school and see we have challenges, but they have a lot of faith that we will take on those challenges and correct them," said Col. William Carpenter (search), admissions director.

The number of female applicants has also risen from a year ago: 2,704 have applied as of Nov. 12, well ahead of last year's 1,883. Academy officials said prospective students don't seem familiar with details of the scandal.

"From the comments we hear from visiting students, they feel strongly about what the academy stands for," said Rollie Stoneman, admissions associate director. "They want to be part of the solution."

A tuition-free education and a guaranteed job after graduation may also be helping the numbers. The cost of an academy education is currently estimated at $33,468 a year.