FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The Fort Rucker Education Center exists to help Soldiers looking to further their careers through higher education and an upcoming event will allow them the chance to earn free college credits.

The education center will hold its CLEP-a-thon Feb. 28 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the first floor of Bldg. 4502 as a way for people to test out of many general education courses and receive credit with no cost to them, according to Randy McNally, supervisory education service specialist for Fort Rucker.

"CLEPs are mostly general education courses that fit into just about any degree program," he said. "Most regionally and nationally accredited schools will take CLEPs as course credit, but people should always check to make sure they will transfer.

"They'll knock out your general education requirements so that you don't have to sit in a class for six to eight weeks and pay up to $750 or more per class," he continued. "That's a lot of effort that you don't have to put forth and a lot of money saved."

During the education center's first CLEP-a-thon, McNally said the event saved the Army more than $18,000 in Army Tuition Assistance costs through Soldiers being able to earn their credits through CLEP rather than taking full courses.

"This is a great way for Soldiers to get college credit and they have nothing to lose," said the education service specialist.

This CLEP-a-thon is being held in conjunction with Black History Month to go along with the observance month's theme -- "Crisis in Black Education."

"There was a huge number of scholarships that were turned back to the government and not used last year, so we want to do a push on this to offer all available educational programs that we can do in order to help people get forward in their education and support them in their endeavors," said the education service specialist. "There really is no excuse not to be going to school, especially with access to something like this."

CLEP tests are provided and accepted by most accredited schools in the U.S., according to McNally, and in order to obtain credit from a CLEP test, students must score at least a 50, which is the equivalent of a C grade.

One of the biggest advantages of CLEP testing is that for Soldiers, it doesn't count toward their Army Tuition Assistance, said McNally. With ATA limited at 16-semester hours per fiscal year, CLEP testing is a great way for Soldiers to earn extra college credit without going toward their limit.

Additionally, with new Army regulations, new Soldiers aren't eligible for tuition assistance until one year after their initial entry training, such as advanced individual training or basic officers leadership course.

"That disallows them for the Army Tuition Assistance for a full year, but CLEPs are a great way for them to attain college credit without it having to come out of pocket," said McNally. "They can CLEP throughout the first year, and it can help them to get into the habit of studying and it can help them out a lot."

During the CLEP-a-thon, Soldiers can take as many tests as they wish and the Army will pay for each test once. If a Soldier fails to pass the test, he or she can retake the test, but must do so at their own expense, said McNally. Otherwise, there are no negative repercussions from testing.

Soldiers can also take advantage of CLEP exams even if they're not in a degree program, he said.

"Soldiers can take their CLEPs, pass them and then come to me and I can give them a memo for promotion points," said McNally.

There is no preregistration required for the testing, but Soldiers are encouraged to come into the education center before the testing date, and preregister and take advantage of study material that the center can provide for some of the CLEP courses.

"One thing great about Fort Rucker is that we work with these colleges and colleges work with us for all of these events," said the education service specialist. "We want to be as proactive as we can here."

For more information, call 255-2378.