Magazine article National Defense

Army to Offer Soldiers Online College Education in $600M Program

Magazine article National Defense

Army to Offer Soldiers Online College Education in $600M Program

Article excerpt

The U.S. Army will spend $50 million in fiscal year 2001, and $550 million in the following five years, to fund a program that will give soldiers opportunities to receive a college education online. This educational technique is known as "distance learning."

By January 2001, the Army plans to have laptop computers available to thousands of soldiers who wish to work towards obtaining an associates, bachelors, masters degrees or technical certification in a specific field of expertise, said Army Secretary Louis Caldera. He unveiled the program at a recent news conference, in Washington, D.C.

Soldiers will have access to university courses and curriculums for little or no cost to them, Caldera said. Army officials believe this initiative will augment the service's recruiting and retention efforts, and it will help forge a force of "educated, information age-savvy soldiers in the 21st century for war-fighting and for every other mission we will be asked to perform," said Caldera.

The Army recently has struggled with filling its recruitment goals, in part, Caldera said, because potential soldiers are choosing college over military service.

"Today, our biggest competition is not a hot economy, but higher education," said Caldera. "Record numbers of young people are going directly from high school to college. They are choosing education over military service. By giving young adults a `learn while you serve' option, we are letting them know you can do both."

The programs official name is "Army University Access Online." The specific universities and educational institutions that will participate are yet to be determined, although Caldera noted that the service has received numerous unsolicited inquiries from interested parties.

Caldera told reporters that enlisted-personnel retention will be improved through the program, because soldiers will be able to "better achieve their personal educational goals and do not have to leave the Army to get an education using their GI Bill or college savings plan money. …

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