Education center works through shortfalls: Programs continue despite budget cuts
November 23, 2010
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Despite budget shortfalls and a shrinking staff, those who operate Army Continuing Education Services are continuing to meet the needs of Soldiers and family members.
Half of the center's already thin staff were cut earlier this year leaving them with one full-time and three part-time contractors. Those positions include instructors, counselors and a test examiner. The center also has one Army civilian employee.
"We are now literally operating on a skeleton crew, but IMCOM is working diligently to bring us back up," said Mary Armstead, acting Education Services Officer. "We adapt and adjust because our goal is to serve Soldiers. We are staying busy trying to accommodate everyone."
ACES programs at all IMCOM garrisons have been affected due to funding deficits for ACES contract employees.
"We have been able to move things around so we can accommodate everyone," Armstead said. "Overall it has worked well. But it has been a high-tempo environment. We meet weekly to discuss where we are and what holes are in the program."
The ACES learning center offers a variety of educational courses Soldiers can use for self-improvement. Through the Basic Skills Education Program, which emphasizes math and English, Soldiers can improve job performance, GT scores, as well as retention and reenlistment options.
Soldiers can also prepare for schools such as Primary Leadership Development Course, Basic Noncommissioned Officers Course, Advanced Noncommissioned Officers Course and the Sergeants Major Academy.
Soldiers and family members can also earn a college degree, license or professional certificate at the learning center.
While no education programs have been cut, the center has had to limit its offerings and has temporarily stopped its testing services for Soldiers who are taking online college courses and need help with testing.
"We haven't had to cut any programs, just curtail some of them," Armstead said. "Everybody here wears a variety of hats so we can stay afloat. Some Soldiers get frustrated, but for the most part, they understand we are trying to help them."
Unit briefings on the resources and opportunities available at ACES have been cut back, as well. In-processing and drill sergeant briefings, however, will continue.
Counseling services have also felt the impact and staff is encouraging students to call for assistance instead of coming to the center for an appointment.
"We have had to not see Soldiers face-to-face but take care of them over the phone," education counselor Sally Maybin said. "We enjoyed our Soldiers being able to walk in and see a counselor, but we can handle it over the phone."
Tuition assistance for Soldiers and spouses is not affected by the funding shortfall.
As IMCOM works out the funding issue, garrison is looking at ways to help ACES continue its mission.
"The installation is looking at ways to help augment personnel," Armstead said. "They are very aware of what we are going through and they are working at helping us."