ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - It isn't too late to register for spring classes through Aberdeen Proving Ground's Army Education Center.

The education center provides counseling and information on financial aid and enrollment in selected programs for active duty military, reserve component military, retirees, Department of the Army civilians and their adult Family members.

Tressie Stout, education services specialist, is encouraging community members to give themselves the gift of education this holiday season.

"And with the cost of tuition rising each year, it is better to pursue your education goals now rather than later," Stout said.

College and graduate degrees offered through the Army Evaluation Center are related to military occupations and many civilian occupations. Stout said some of the more popular degrees at APG are in logistics, computer science and management.

To give students the flexibility that busy families need, she said classes are offered on post, at night.

And they shouldn't wait until retirement to think about higher education, she said. Stout recommended students start classes as soon as they have the motivation and opportunity.

"It's never too early for Soldiers to come in for career counseling," she said. "We have career aptitude tests that help them find out what they should do for a second career. Also, when a Soldier goes before the promotion board, the amount of education he or she has is definitely
considered. Soldiers that complete classes and earn degrees are more competitive."

Stout noted a Department of Defense tuition assistance program that provides active duty military up to $4,500 towards college tuition each fiscal year. Soldiers who have served 90 or more days on active duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001, can also use the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which
provides up to 36 months of benefits for education for tuition, fees, a monthly living allowance, books and supplies. Post 9/11 benefits can also be transferred to a spouse or dependent children.

Another service the education center provides is college credit by examination for all active duty and reserve component military personnel free of charge. Civilians and adult Family members can
also receive college credit by examination for a nominal charge.

"You can save a substantial amount of money and time by testing out of classes," Stout said.

The Army Education Center has Servicemember Opportunity College, or SOC, representatives on site from schools like Harford Community College, University of Maryland, Central Michigan University and the Florida Institute of Technology, University of Phoenix, Strayer University, Penn State University-World Campus and Excelsior College.

SOC was created in 1972 to provide educational opportunities to troops and Family members who had trouble completing degrees because due to frequent moves. SOC allows college credit to transfer easily from one SOC institution to another. For a full listing of other SOC colleges and universities in APG's commuting area, visit GoarmyEd.com.

Some classes from SOC colleges and universities, like Towson University and Morgan State University, are available at The Higher Education & Conference Center at HEAT, located in Aberdeen, at the juncture of Interstate 95 and Route 22.

For more information about the education center, call 410 306-2042, or visit http://bit.ly/uevjzW.