Soldiers, Family members, contractors, cadets and civilians have an opportunity to receive higher education through the Army Education Center here at low to no cost to the student. Servicemembers can take advantage of the Servicemembers Opportunity College, which is a group of colleges dedicated to help Soldiers and their Families earn a degree.
AEC through Mount St. Mary College, John Jay College, St. Thomas Aquinas College and Long Island University, coordinates course offerings and degree programs through these colleges, to include some masters' degrees.
"The Army pays up to $250 per credit hour and up to $4,500 per year (for Soldiers)," said David Byrd, AEC chief.
These colleges guarantee transferability of credits among themselves -- the system preserves credits that Soldiers earn as they move around and take courses at a variety of schools. All schools in the network maintain regional accreditation, said Nancy Judd, AEC guidance counselor.
"The College of the American Soldier are colleges that are military-friendly and have been serving Soldiers in a similar way for years," Judd said. "For example, George Washington University and their associate degree program for medical lab technicians, Central Texas College for military police and Arapahoe Community College for physical therapy assistance to name a few. These schools are commonly used by our Soldiers because they maximize the credits awarded from their Army American Registry Transcript System. These schools are also part of the SOC network so Soldier-students are able to take courses with our local schools and easily transfer the credits to a schools like Thomas Edison or Excelsior to satisfy degree requirements."
Civilians are offered college courses at a reduced rate, and many courses are given after duty hours at Thayer Hall here.
AEC also offers Soldiers and Family members the opportunity to earn college credits through several different avenues.
"There are a number of ways that Soldiers can receive college credit," Byrd explained. "They can earn credit through the traditional classroom, College Level Examination Program or CLEP testing, distance learning through the Internet, military experience and through the training the Soldiers received.
"Through the CLEP test, it is possible for a Soldier to gain college credits equal to a semester," Byrd added. "If a Soldier has been through basic or non-commissioned officer courses, they can earn credits through what they have learned through testing."
CLEP tests are tests on a variety of different subjects consisting of approximately 90 multiple choice questions and an essay. The test is free to servicemembers, and a test in a given subject can be taken twice, if needed, to achieve the appropriate score for credit.
Distance learning also is a popular method of earning credits. Soldiers can receive college credits through the courses they take on the Internet.
"One of the advantages of distance learning is there are no terms. People can start at any time and continue at their own pace," Judd said. "Some take advantage of coupling traditional classes along with distance learning."
There has been a drop in people taking traditional courses because of the increase in distance learning, Byrd said.
"We have 350 enrolled in courses this year compared to 550 enrolled last year," he said.
The AEC is offering something new, which began with the Soldiers from Fort Drum who were training cadets last summer.
"We offered the Fort Drum Soldiers a compressed college course of four-and-a-half-weeks rather than the usual six weeks," Byrd said. "The summer training Soldiers are not here for very long. With these courses, we were able to set up a unique schedule for them. The courses included speech and history of Vietnam, and it was a big hit with them."
Cadets can take advantage of the AEC by taking the Alternate Flight Aptitude Selection Test.
AFAST is a series of tests that check aptitudes such as personality and characteristics that can predict success in the Army helicopter flight training program. Soldiers can take the Functional Academic Skills Training, which will help them raise their General Technical scores, which are combined English and math scores.
AEC also offers career counseling and educational advice that will help Soldiers, Family members and civilians on their way to a degree through higher education.
Tuition assistance, however, is only available at www.goArmyEd.com. Go to the Web site to request assistance or information about this program.
For more information on any of the Center's programs, call either Byrd or Judd at 938-3464.