Army Continuing Education System
What is it?
The Army Continuing Education System (ACES), through its many programs, promotes lifelong learning opportunities for Soldiers and their Families. The ACES is committed to excellence in services, innovation, and deployability. Its mission is to "promote lifelong learning opportunities to sharpen the competitive edge of the Army by providing and managing quality self-development programs and services.” The program’s vision is to “revolutionize and lead Department of Defense education [and thereby to] spearhead a lifelong learning culture to strengthen a mission-ready force."
ACES programs and services are available to active-duty military and their adult Family members; members of the reserve component and their adult Family members; military retirees or survivors of retirees and their adult Family members; active and retired Department of the Army Civilians and other Federal employees, as well as their adult Family members; contractors whose contracts include such services and programs, and their adult Family members; and local nationals whose employment considerations include such services and programs, and their adult Family members. Adult Family members benefit equally from ACES services. There are 103 Army Education Centers and 104 Multi-Use Learning Facilities/Army Learning Centers worldwide under the direction of the Installation Management Command (IMCOM). As per AR 621-5, limited educational support is currently provided to adult Family members on a space-available basis.
What has the Army done?
In July 2002, the ACES began its In-State Tuition Initiative to ease the burden on Soldiers and Family members who move frequently and attend college. This initiative encourages states to grant in-state tuition in both the place of official residence and the place of assignment, and to establish continuity of the benefit for Family members until graduation, notwithstanding reassignment of the military sponsor out of the state. At the beginning of the initiative, only 13 states met all of the Army’s goals, with 44 states meeting at least two goals. Today, 28 states meet all desired outcomes (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming). Also, 46 states meet at least two goals.
In August 2007, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense announced the Department of Labor/Department of Defense Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (CAA) Demonstration Project. In support of the project, the ACES provides verification of spouse eligibility as well as educational counseling and guidance to enable eligible spouses to pursue post-secondary education, training, and credentialing/licensing for career and career advancement. The Military Spouse CAA Demonstration Project increases the financial stability of military Families and supports the retention and readiness of the military sponsor.
Additionally, the ACES supports a Career Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) Degree Partnership with Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOCs) and SOC Army Degree Universities/Colleges to establish a Career NCO Degree Program. The Career NCO Degree Program expands the existing Civilian education choices available to Soldiers and career NCOs while enhancing leadership and warfighting capabilities by maximizing college credit granted for military experience, NCO Education System (NCOES), distributed learning, and self-development. The program ensures minimum loss of earned credit so as to better support the continued promotion of the Army’s NCO Corps.
What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?
The ACES is a voluntary continuing education program that provides essential support for Army recruitment, retention, unit readiness, and quality of life. Committed to excellence, innovation, and deployability, the ACES vigorously promotes lifelong learning opportunities to sharpen Soldiers’ critical thinking and decision-making skills by providing and managing quality self-development programs and services. Effective January 2008, the ACES will provide a full range of educational counseling support services to Garrison Warriors in Transition and their care providers on-site at 29 strategic Continental United States plus Europe IMCOM garrisons. Additionally, the ACES participates in the Wounded Warrior Education Initiative, a pilot program to prepare wounded active-component commissioned, warrant, and noncommissioned officers with employment at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Soldiers enrolled in the program receive full pay and allowances while attending college to obtain a master’s degree in one of 16 different disciplines instead of performing usual military duties. The program provides liberal relief for repayment of tuition and fees if the Soldier is unable to complete the prescribed course of study. All tuition and fees for the program will be paid by the Army. Future plans for the program include expansion to other wounded Soldiers in Warrior in Transition Units and their Family members.
Why is this important to the Army?
As a result of a 2003 study, the Army Research Institute concluded that "participation in ACES programs was positively related to personnel availability in terms of attrition and reenlistment (retention) and to individual performance effectiveness as reflected in time to promotion, self-reported assessments, and supervisor evaluations.” While these results pertain to today's Army, this beneficial relationship may become even more important for the Army as it transforms. This emerging force is projected to require Soldiers to be committed to lifelong learning in order to operate confidently and effectively in confronting the complexities and challenges of the 21st century national security environment. Projections also indicate that, to a greater extent than today, this learning will occur through self-development activities. Thus, voluntary participation in ACES programs provides and individual Soldier aspect of unit readiness that will allow the Army to achieve transformation and sustain its effectiveness.